Unbeaten, Unnoticed Boston College Doesn't Quite Get Hype Generated by 23-0 Illinois

By Rittenberg, Adam | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 8, 2005 | Go to article overview

Unbeaten, Unnoticed Boston College Doesn't Quite Get Hype Generated by 23-0 Illinois


Rittenberg, Adam, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Adam Rittenberg Daily Herald Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -Boston College's team bus emerged from the fog and pulled up to the Joyce Center exactly two minutes after a scheduled 6 p.m. shootaround Monday.

Some would call the Eagles' arrival fashionably late. Coach Al Skinner called it just plain late.

Skinner and his players walked to the court and immediately started practice. They passed by a small group of reporters, who were left wondering whether Bruce Weber and No. 1 Illinois would ever turn away a media opportunity just to stay on schedule.

Illinois and Boston College might be the only remaining Division I unbeaten teams. But the similarities begin and end there.

The Eagles (20-0, 9-0), who Monday earned their highest-ever ranking in the Associated Press poll (No. 4), will be making their first national television appearance today (6 p.m., ESPN2) against Notre Dame.

They'll have to compete in primetime with Illinois, which appears in its third consecutive national television spot (10th overall).

Illini guards Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head could have their own billboards in Times Square, but how many fans could recognize Boston College standouts Craig Smith and Jared Dudley?

Illinois has been ranked No. 1 for 10 consecutive weeks, while Boston College struggled to retain a top-10 spot at 16-0. ESPN.com's college basketball front page Monday displayed the headline "Big Controversy" above a story detailing how Boston College would receive a No. 2 seed if the NCAA Tournament began immediately.

Now which undefeated team doesn't get any respect?

"It's just funny that the season's almost over and we get our first televised game," said Smith, laughing to himself in disbelief. "It just goes to show you we're not liked as much."

Boston College is the first Big East team ever to start a season 20-0. It has won 25 consecutive regular-season games and 28 of its last 29.

So what gives?

"When you think of Boston College, you're not thinking of a 1 or 2 seed," Dudley said. "You think of North Carolina, those teams at Duke. You're going to give them the benefit of the doubt, which they (deserve). ...

"No one expected us to be 20-0 this year, 9-0 in the Big East, but that's what we are."

The Eagles lack Illinois' grace and star power, but they make do with toughness and an unmatched resolve to win.

At halftime, Illinois has led by an average of 13.7 points and trailed just once in 23 games. Boston College has staged second- half comebacks in 60 percent of its games, rallying from deficits of 17 (vs. Kent State) and 10 (vs. Yale).

"We've been in so many close games, especially last year when we went 24-10," Smith said. …

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