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Boston University Men's Basketball Preview: Terriers Face Tough Road To Repeat

Boston University's men's basketball team kicks off its 2011-12 season with the goal of doing what it did one season ago: winning the America East conference and making the NCAA Tournament. However, it will be tougher this time around.

By Seth Orensky, Contributor.

The reigning America East champions will have a difficult road to defend their title as they adjust to their third head coach in four years and life after Player of the Year John Holland. New boss Joe Jones inherits a squad that was named the preseason favorite in the America East Conference for the fifth year in a row but is missing its top two players from a season ago. With 10 players returning, Jones has the talent and experience of a championship roster and could be putting on his dancing shoes in March if he can bring it all together.

2010-11: 21-14
2010-11 Postseason: NCAA Tournament 2nd Round
Coach: Joe Jones First Season at BU (0-0, 86-108)
Key Losses: G John Holland, Head coach Pat Chambers, F Jake O'Brien (season ending injury)
Key Additions: Head Coach Joe Jones, F James Kennedy, Zach Chionuma

Projected Starting Lineup:
G- D.J. Irving
G-Matt Griffin
G-Darryl Partin
PF-Dom Morris
C-Jeff Pelage

Key Newcomers: BU's freshmen class last year was the largest in several years and panned out with both Dom Morris and D.J. Irving earning spots in the starting lineup and on the conference rookie team. While this year's group might not earn as many accolades, James Kennedy and Zach Chionuma could make instant impacts for the Terriers. Kennedy, a 6-5 power forward is being billed as a big-time rebounder who could immediately find his way into the Terriers rotation as the fourth big man.

"For a small guy just like myself who's not the biggest forward out there, he's great at using his body," senior captain Patrick Hazel said. "He's about 6-4, 6-5 but he knows how to carve out space and get those rebounds out. He's a good finisher too, I think he'll fit right in."

The athletic Chionuma along with redshirt freshmen Mat Piotrowski and Malik Thomas will all have a tougher time working their way into the rotation.

Who Will Score?: It's an odd dilemma on Commonwealth Avenue but head coach Joe Jones' biggest problem could be finding enough scoring. After having top-flight scorers in Corey Lowe and John Holland lighting it up for so long, the Terriers lack a go-to scorer with senior Jake O'Brien out for the year after a second ankle surgery.

Darryl Partin is the consensus choice to fill Holland's shoes after averaging over 14 points per game a season ago and being named to the America East Conference First Team. But it likely won't be that simple. The LaSalle transfer is a gifted scorer and is liable to go off for 30 or more at any given juncture but did so as the second option in an offense that revolved around Holland.

"I think collectively we have to incur the impact of losing a guy like [John] Holland, I don't think it's going to be on him," head coach Joe Jones said.

Sophomores D.J. Irving and Dom Morris will need to step up as the second and third scorers for the Terriers. The two Philadelphia products were third and fifth on the team in scoring and proved capable of getting their own shot whenever they wanted to.

Smooth Transition: Boston University has had the most talented roster in America East for five consecutive seasons but has walked away with just one championship title. What's been behind the lack of success? Coaching has been a big part of the problem. 

Dennis Wolff's last two years were plagued with player unrest, conservative play calling and a lack of chemistry that doomed the team from the start. Even two seasons ago, the Terriers missed out on a regular season title because they were still working to grasp head coach Pat Chambers' system. BU finally came around in March and nearly upset Vermont in the conference championship game but it was clear that the roster wasn't comfortable with the new system for much of the year. So how quickly can this group of Terriers adjust to Jones' style, after putting it all together last season?

"I'm proud of the players, I'm very proud of what they were able to accomplish," Jones said. "We return five senior, I count Jake O'Brien into that senior class even though he's injured; to have five seniors coming back off a team that won it, they understand what it takes. I'm looking forward to going through this journey.

Jones' background as an assistant under Jay Wright at Hofstra and Villanova before leaving for Columbia means that the differences between his system and Chambers' (another former Villanova assistant) will be relatively few. It will still be important to watch how the players react to the slight variations, fortunately for the Terriers the transition seems to have been seamless.

"Coach Jones is a pretty likeable guy," captain Matt Griffin said. "[He's] very easy to get along with and his energy and passion for the game makes it very exciting to come to practice and want to play for him. I don't think it affected us the whole summer in terms of working hard and getting into the gym and staying together as a team."

Front Court A Strength?: Controlling the paint has been a weakness for the Terriers for as long as I can remember. The squad has perennially had one of the best backcourts in the conference, only to stumble when it had to rely on its bigs. This season the four man rotation of: Hazel, Kennedy, Morris and Jeff Pelage could be a strength for the Terriers.

All four players are big bodies and above-average rebounders in a conference notorious for undersized frontcourt players. Morris and Kennedy will be relied upon to do most of the scoring but Pelage and Hazel's defense will be the key forthe group. Both players are excellent shot blockers and help defenders. They will need to stay healthy and out of foul trouble for BU to compete if BU is to pull off any upsets this season.

Best Case: BU not only repeats but wins their first regular season title since 2003-2004. A strong out of conference showing helps the Terrier earn the first 15 seed for America East since 2009 and they compete for 30 minutes against a BCS power.

Worst Case: A lack of cohesion and an injury to Partin or Irving dooms the Terriers and they fall in the conference semifinals looking thoroughly outmatched.