Don't tell Boston College basketball coach Jim O'Brien about challenging the Atlantic Coast Conference. He has already seen, firsthand, what the league can do, and it wasn't pretty.
The Eagles (4-1) meet Maryland tonight (9 p.m., WBAL-AM; tape delay at midnight, ESPN), in the ACC-Big East Challenge in Richmond, Va., where Pitt meets Virginia at 7 p.m. in the first game of the doubleheader. Boston College got swamped two weeks ago by Duke, 100-76, in the preseason National Invitation Tournament, and, in the process, got a taste of ACC basketball at its best.
"Any game that we play, including conference games, is not going to be a whole lot more difficult than what we saw at Duke," said O'Brien.
Boston College, picked to finish last in the nine-team Big East (but included in the Challenge because it was excluded last season), doesn't have to worry about seeing the Blue Devils again. Maryland (2-1) is coming off a 90-85 loss at West Virginia, and the Terps are seeded eighth among the eight ACC teams in the Challenge for the second straight year.
The Eagles are coming off a 76-57 win Saturday over Arkansas State in the championship game of the BC Basketball Classic. They start three freshmen, including 6-foot-9 forward Bill Curley, a native of Duxbury, Mass., and one of the country's most sought-after recruits.
Curley, a preseason pick to make the All-Big East rookie team, sat out the second half of his senior year in high school with a stress fracture, yet made some All-America teams. He is leading the Eagles in scoring (12.2 points) and rebounding (8.6). O'Brien reports that while Curley is still developing, he can see signs of progress.
"Every day, he seems to be getting a bit more freer and a bit more comfortable in what we're doing," said O'Brien.
Howard Eisley, a 6-2 freshman from Detroit, is running the offense, and he led the Eagles with 16 points Saturday. The third freshman starter, 6-3 Malcolm Huckaby, from Bristol, Conn., hasn't shot well so far, hitting just 24 percent, but is playing good defense, according to O'Brien.
Calvert Hall's Doug Able, a 6-6 forward, is the Eagles' first man off the bench. He's shooting a crisp 62 percent from the floor, while pumping in 10 points a game. Meanwhile, 6-9 senior Corey Jackson, who attended Southern of Baltimore, is averaging seven points and five rebounds from the power forward slot.
Tonight's game marks the first time that Maryland coach Gary Williams has coached against Boston College since he left as the Eagles' head coach in 1986 to take the helm at Ohio State.
Williams, who had a four-year record of 76-45 at Boston College, taking the Eagles to two NCAA tournaments and one NIT appearance, has downplayed the game.
"It was a great place to coach and I liked living in Boston, but I'm totally focused at Maryland," said Williams.