Three Pointer: BC drops foul-filled opener

Providence 82, Boston College 78 (OT)

1. There weren’t many surprises. Most of what happened Friday night was in line with what we thought about BC and Providence entering the season. The Friars were favored by 3-4 points, basically the value of home-court advantage, and won by four in overtime. Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson, the Eagles’ offensive leaders last season, each topped 20 points in good-but-not-great games — Hanlan had two highlight-reel moments, a three-point play to tie late in regulation and a crossover-through-the-legs -three-pointer to take the lead in overtime, but he and Anderson each committed four turnovers.

With Providence down a couple players before the game and losing more to foul trouble late, Bryce Cotton shined as the Friars’ primary offensive option, dropping 28 points on 25 shooting possessions. The Eagles, always reluctant to go after offensive rebounds, retrieved only two of 27 missed shots, while the Friars retained 11 of their 29, extra possessions that made a difference.

2. Free throws were critical. Neither Boston College nor its opponent committed more than 26 fouls in any of BC’s 33 games last year; on day one of the 2013-14 season, the Eagles were whistled 27 times and Providence 28. The extra five minutes of overtime helped, of course, but in the wake of this offseason’s officiating changes, it’s not hard to believe today’s game might be part of a larger trend. There were some hand-check fouls, but there were also a lot of whistles on shots or loose balls, which aren’t explicitly part of the new rules.

Regardless of the cause, fouls were a primary factor tonight — three players from each team fouled out, and a total of three others ended on four fouls. Even before BC’s clock-stopping desperation fouls, the two sides combined for 18 points on just two made field goals in overtime, making the extra frame an unmemorable experience. To their credit, both teams made the most of their opportunities, combining to make 28 of 29 consecutive free throws at one point between the second half and overtime.

3. Will we remember this game in March? It’s way, way too early to think about this, but given where Providence and BC entered the season, it’s not impossible to see both teams somewhere near the NCAA tournament bubble in four months, which would magnify tonight’s result. The stakes are highest from day one for second-tier major-conference programs like these — the elite teams are likely to reach the tourney regardless, while mid-majors have a better chance of getting in through their conference’s automatic bid, but programs like BC have to build their resumes from the beginning of November.

Also, I sort of hate myself for thinking that way so early in the season. American sports culture is increasingly obsessed with playoffs, and college basketball is possibly the biggest offender, with teams and coaches often remembered and evaluated solely through the narrow lens of three weeks in March. The logician inside me loves thinking about bracketology early on, and don’t get me wrong, the tournament is awesome — but the 5,000-something games that precede it are also awesome, and they can be appreciated without worrying about what comes next.

Links below the jump:

-For more on this year’s new officiating instructions, ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil has a good analysis:

Like it or not, something had to be done. Players are bigger, stronger and tougher. Coaches can give game tapes the Zapruder treatment in an effort to conjure up specific defenses. Plenty of people can appreciate a good defense, but if we wanted to watch good wrestling, we’d call up Cael Sanderson.

There’s really no place for hands in defense, anyway.

-As with most NCAA-related matters, John Infante has a smart take on the eligibility case of Colgate’s Nathan Harries, and a new approach for the NCAA:

A combination of the first and third approaches makes sense. If you are in the military or on a religious mission, no questions are asked about the level of competition. If not, it is up to the student-athlete and institution to show that the league was recreational, not elite. Throw in a more forgiving penalty structure than the automatic loss of a season of eligibility and one-year residency requirement and the NCAA will find itself with much less egg on its face in these cases.

-John Gasaway picks Harvard to reach the Final Four — yes, really — while Seth Davis shows the Crimson more love as a mid-major dark horse and Kelli Anderson is high on Boston College (same link).

-The Boston Globe’s Joe Sullivan is maybe even bolder — he says Harvard will finish the regular season undefeated, a bet I’d gladly take the other side of. (And in naming five “possible losses,” he leaves out a certain place place where the Crimson hasn’t won since 1989…)

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