Road to Sweet 16 intersects BC's past

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Boston College coach Al Skinner and Eagles seniors Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall keep running into their past in the NCAA tournament.

Last season, BC's first in the Atlantic Coast Conference, ended with an overtime Sweet 16 loss to Villanova, an old Big East rival.


Who do the Eagles get in today's second round (5:50 p.m.) at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum? Georgetown, the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and coming off its first sweep of Big East regular-season and tournament titles since 1989.

Boston College's last year in the Big East coincided with the first for Hoyas coach John Thompson III. He's a reminder of the conference's heyday, as his father was one of the coaches who put it on the map.


BC was part of a football-fueled expansion that led the ACC to raid the Big East, which in turn gutted Conference USA. While Miami and Virginia Tech bolted to the ACC for the 2004-05 season, Boston College stayed behind for one more year and got blamed for everything except the hole in the ozone layer.

"On the road, fans kind of got on us, calling us traitors," Marshall said. "It wasn't up to us. It was a great experience, playing in the [Madison Square] Garden for the Big East tournament. I do miss that."

It has been an uncharacteristic year in the ACC. First, Wake Forest won the football title, then Dudley was named Player of the Year. Since 1990, that award had stayed within the four North Carolina schools with two Maryland exceptions, Joe Smith in 1995 and Juan Dixon in 2002.

Dudley is from Southern California, but he has roots in North Carolina - his father lives in Wilmington - and a gift of gab.

"When we played in it [the Big East], there were a lot of gimme games you could definitely count on for wins," Dudley said. "The ACC isn't like that. You saw N.C. State make it to the [tournament] finals. I think the ACC is so much more athletic.

"It's the best of both worlds, to play in two great conferences. But if I had it to do all over again, I would love to play [four years] in the ACC. UConn and Syracuse are both good teams, but when you say North Carolina and Duke, it's different."

Dudley and Marshall were starters from Day One at Boston College, where they have a 3-0 record against Georgetown. They have won games at Connecticut and West Virginia, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

An adaptable bunch feeds off Dudley's personality. When Skinner finally had enough of Sean Williams and dumped the 6-10 behavior problem two months ago, the 6-7 Dudley shifted from the perimeter to the post.


According to Boston College, only six Division I players have logged more minutes than Dudley, but none, from Danny Manning at Kansas to Duke's J.J. Redick, came close to his career average for minutes played - 36.3.

Georgetown, another grind-it-out crew at the offensive end, will most likely check Dudley with DaJuan Summers, the 6-8 freshman out of McDonogh.

"The way they go about their business still has a Big East feel to it," Thompson said of Boston College. "When people traditionally talk about Big East basketball, we're a bump-and-touch kind of league, and they are a physical, aggressive team."

The second game in tonight's doubleheader also has a familiar feel, as No. 1 seed North Carolina meets Michigan State, the Tar Heels' semifinal victim en route to their 2005 title.

The East's second-round winners will move on to the Meadowlands for Sweet 16 games next Friday.

"There would be nothing sweeter," Marshall said, "than to get this win and go back to BC to get ready to go to New Jersey."


That, of course, is Big East country.