Be careful what you wish for

There's a fairly vocal contingent of Holy Cross fans who have it in their heads that the Crusaders are too good for the Patriot League.

Not just this season, though they are not shy about complaining that the rest of the league's out of conference struggles are going to hurt their seeding come March.

The fact that conference play has not yet begun, and the fact that Holy Cross is not even picked to win the league, does not deter them a bit.

Even if Holy Cross actually sucked (and we are not saying they do, but we've been around the Patriot League long enough to remember the Bill Raynor era and we've read about the lean years in the 1980s before HC joined the league), those fans would still insist the grass would be the 16th green at Augusta if only the Crusaders played in a league of fellow Catholic schools like Georgetown, St. John's and Boston College.

Sure, the argument can be made that HC's administration dropped the ball when they passed up on a chance to join the Big East. Then again, there is no guarantee that moving to a higher profile league would make things better in Worcester.

No need to rehash what happened to Fordham when it jumped to the Atlantic Ten in search for hoops nirvana. We covered that in detail on Monday.

Instead, we will point to the fortunes of tonight's opponent, Boston College. Sure the Eagles have been pretty decent the past few seasons. But it was not that long ago that they were among the dregs of the Big East. Between the 1989-90 season and the 1999-00 campaign, BC suffered through six losing seasons and two others in which they failed to get above .500 in conference play.

As I pointed out the other day over on the Holy Cross hoops board:
. . . the Crusaders have a rich history ... 11 NCAA Tournament appearances. But four of those came courtesy of playing in the much-maligned Patriot League. Five were before 1960. The other two were in 1977 and 1980.

During the MAAC years, if my research is correct, HC made one post-season appearance, a 1990 NIT bid.
Yeah, we know all about Bob Cousy. Christy Mathewson went to Bucknell, but nobody is suggesting the Bison should play baseball in the National League.

It might also be worth mentioning that Boston College didn't exactly find the Big East to be the be all and end all Holy Cross fans seem to think it is.

Which brings us to tonight's matchup.

Michael O'Connor of the Boston Herald says BC coach Al Skinner is giving HC some respect. Sure coaches almost always say the right things about oponents, but in this case Skinner, with good reason, sounds genuine:
"As far as this particular game goes, it's clear they've always been a very good opponent who can play physical and be aggressive,'' he said.

"Remember, we lost to them a couple of years ago and they came in here last year and played us very well (a 64-51 BC win). This is a very important game for them, to establish themselves early, but it is just as important for us to continue what we're doing."
Ralph Willard says the Crusaders have their work cut out for them against Boston College:
"(BC) is a Top 25 caliber team that returns 4 starters from a team that won 24 games last year. They have good balance between the front and backcourt and play excellent defense , switching between man and a 3-2 matchup with some 1-2-1-1 three quarter court pressure sprinkled in. They have one of the most difficult people in the country to guard in Craig Smith and are very well coached by Al Skinner."
CBS Sportsline's scouting report on the BC says:
"The Eagles have been playing great thus far, particularly on offense."
Mike Shalin of the Boston Herald is predicting BC could be 11-0 when it opens Big East play. Shalin gives the 'Saders no respect:
"The Eagles' upcoming opponents don't figure to help them move up the lists, but they likely won't knock Al Skinner's team from the unbeaten ranks, either. BC hosts Holy Cross Thursday and Boston University Saturday before Yale (Dec. 19), Duquesne (Dec. 22) and always formidable Kent State (Dec. 29) round out the month. BC visits UMass on Jan. 2 and visits Hartford three nights later to battle the Huskies, probably for the last time."
At any rate, this is a chance for the Holy Cross fans to see what life is like on the other side of the fence.

Elsewhere tonight:

Army takes on the mighty whatever-they-are-calleds of SUNY Maritime. We'd love to tell you more about Maritime, but the athletics page of its Web site has been down the past two days and Army hasn't even bothered to post game notes. We assume this game was scheduled to give the Cadets a second chance at avoiding a winless season in case they had been upset by Polytechnic.

We don't feel too bad. USA Today couldn't find out anything about Maritime either.

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