Even during last season's unexpected run to a share of the Big East regular-season title, Jared Dudley often would watch ACC games on television, scouting the 2005-06 opposition in anticipation of the Eagles' switching conferences. And what he saw made him feel optimistic about the change. "The ACC has a couple guys like [Wake Forest's] Eric Williams and [Duke's] Shelden Williams who are physical players, but overall it's more of a finesse league," says Dudley, a gritty 6'7" junior forward who enjoyed a breakout season last year. "We play a physical game, and that's going to hurt teams in the ACC."
Senior power forward Craig Smith may be BC's immovable force inside, but Dudley's continued improvement in diversifying his game could be the key for a team that has four starters back. He expects to handle the ball more than last season and penetrate from the wing, but he'll still spend plenty of time in the paint. "Whenever people talk about the best frontcourts in the country, they don't put us up there," says Dudley. "It's always UConn or this year Duke with Williams and [Josh] McRoberts. But I don't know if anybody has a better frontcourt than we do, especially if you add Sean Williams into that equation."
A 6'10", energetic, shot blocking center, Williams had some big games as a freshman, including a 16-point, 10-rebound outing against Providence, but his arrest last May for possession of marijuana (his case has been continued without finding until Feb. 1, contingent on Williams's completing an inpatient program) cut him out of the equation. He was suspended from school indefinitely and is taking courses at Houston in hopes of being reinstated at BC in the second semester. Williams's eligibility will be "a university decision," says coach Al Skinner.
In the meantime the Eagles will rely even more on Dudley for an emotional spark, and he's only too happy to oblige. If his trademark celebratory antics agitated Big East fans, one can only imagine the response he'll get in BC's inaugural ACC game--Dec. 11 at Maryland, home to the league's toughest crowd. "That should be fun," says Dudley, who has no intention of taking it down a notch. "If I'm not like that, my teammates would ask me, 'What's going on? Are you O.K.?' I like talking to fans and opponents, and I love playing on the road and trying to put on a show."
In the end, though, it's the results that count, and Dudley knows that BC's 20-0 start last season was diminished by a 5-5 finish. "I'm excited to prove last year wasn't a fluke," he says. "I'm not going to say we'll go 20-0, but we'll win a lot of games this year."
Three current starters went coast-to-coast to play for BC: Craig Smith of Los Angeles, Sean Marshall of Rialto and Jared Dudley of San Diego.
Coach: Al Skinner 2004-05 record: 25-5 (13-3, T1 in Big East)
2005 tournament: Lost in 2nd round to Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Jared DUDLEY [RETURNING STARTER]
Craig SMITH [RETURNING STARTER]
Sean MARSHALL [RETURNING STARTER]
Louis HINNANT [RETURNING STARTER]
ENEMY LINES an opposing coach's view
This is a very, very scary team. They run the flex offense, and you'll have to prepare differently for them than for any other team in the ACC.... Craig Smith is a matchup problem waiting to happen. He's physical and can step outside a bit.... Make Jared Dudley beat you from the outside .... Louis Hinnant is the perfect point guard for this system. He'll get the ball to Smith and Dudley and not mess anything up.
¬†¬† DUDLEY DO RIGHT
Providing emotional and offensive spark, Dudley keys a frontcourt that carried the Eagles to a 20-0 start last season.