Columnists, Sports

Foul Shots: No more Mo

The fact that guard Maurice Watson Jr. even came to Boston University is a bit of a surprise to begin with. Coming out of high school, Watson was one of the top-100 players in the country, according to ESPN. He had offers from Texas Tech University and Princeton University, among other schools.

But he came to Commonwealth Avenue and immediately became the Terriers’ primary point guard and best ballhandler, supplanting team leader D.J. Irving in both roles. In his freshman year in 2012-13, Watson averaged 11.2 points, 5.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game, while shooting 46.3 percent from the field. This season, he improved every facet of his game, averaging 13.3 points, 7.1 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. He also shot an strong 49.5 percent from the field. After the regular season, he was named a member to the First Team All-Patriot League.

Watson recently announced that he will transfer from Boston University to Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. He’ll have to sit out the 2014-15 season, as per NCAA rules.

What does the loss of Watson mean to Boston University? Well, the Terriers are losing the best point guard they’ve had in quite a long time. And it’s not like Irving will be able to reprise his point guard role; he’s graduating. BU fans, the miniscule number that actually go to basketball games, won’t get to see the sheer chaos and energy that Watson injects into a fast break ever again. I’ve never seen someone that fast in person. He runs like he has a jetpack strapped to his ass. That’s the biggest thing I’ll miss about Watson; on every miss by the opponent (and some made baskets too) he runs as if he is being chased by wolves, weaving in-and-out between defenders and consistently making the right play while the opponent is caught off-guard.

More importantly, Watson’s decision to transfer is representative of the plight of the mid-major school nowadays. BU, as a mid-major, just isn’t as attractive for players and coaches alike as much as Big East Conference schools like Creighton. Granted, until this year, Creighton was a mid-major. But they decided to make the jump to the Big East, and had one of the most successful seasons in program history.

I think Watson’s good enough to succeed at Creighton. He might not be All-First Team Big East — he’s generously listed at 5-foot-10, he’s not a great 3-point shooter and he turns the ball over at a high rate. But, he’ll get more exposure on a national stage, and perhaps draw more attention from the NBA, NBA Developmental League and international scouts.

In today’s game, that’s really all that major college basketball is about. The players aren’t student athletes at all. The NCAA is merely a spawning ground for NBA talent, and those not good enough for the NBA are desperate to find somewhere else to play after their college years come to an end.

BU has to examine its standing as a mid-major when it comes to basketball. The size of the school dictates a move to a major conference. Duke University, which plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference, has about 6,000 undergraduates. BU has nearly 16,000. I’m not saying that size of the student body is the only determinant of standing in a conference.

The main problem is that BU, and its students, just don’t really care about basketball compared to how much they care about hockey. That’s distressing; especially in a city with an NBA team that has the tradition and history of the Boston Celtics.

The hockey team gets far more press than the basketball team, which is strange considering that the hockey team went 10-21-4 and wasn’t close to making the NCAA tournament, while the basketball team went 24-11 and came within one game of making March Madness. Is it just me, or does this not make any sense at all?

So I can’t really blame Watson for leaving, not at all. He was, by any statistical measure, one of the top-10 point guards in the country this year. And no one at BU really cares, outside of the basketball team and a handful of fans. At Creighton, he’ll find a population of basketball-crazy fans, who will revere him for his exploits and sympathize with his failures.

Basketball players, perhaps more than any other athletes, have a unique, symbiotic relationship with the crowd at a game. Basketball is a free-flowing, fast-paced sport that is at times ruled by momentum.

When a player gets hot, he can turn the tide of a game in a matter of minutes. And the crowd, which is practically right next to the court, creates an atmosphere that rises and falls with each play.

When a great player like Maurice Watson is on a hot streak, the crowd should shower him with appreciation. He couldn’t get that feeling here at BU, and I hope he gets it at Creighton. He deserves it.

One Comment

  1. I’m so sick of hearing about the “plight of the mid-major.” How do you prove that when teams like Bucknell, Florida Gulf Coast, George Mason and Butler have made runs in tournament that truly spark the romanticism of the idea of a “Cinderella Run.” Evidence has shown that a “Mid-major” team has had success in each season in the NCAA Tournament over the last decade.

    Plight of the mid-major? Why- because the theory is that you’re playing for one shot…one opportunity. I’m pretty sure Eminem made a lot of money from that same idea… That is the true beauty of a mid-major team. You’re playing with the idea that one mistake can cost you. You’re playing without a safety net – a life lesson that I’m not sure a Kentucky can teach on or off the court.

    Mid-major basketball is about faith…kind of poetic here in the city of Boston. This city has had that same gut-wrenching, emotional, hanging on every moment in every professional sport– their fans overanalyze ever play, put their heads in their laps in fear of a final play, and experience the thrill of winning and the empty abyss of losing greater than any city in the world. The Terriers run last season was exactly that… a roller coaster of emotions that made you close your eyes, have that anxious feeling on the climb, and then feeling the elation as the ride hit its apex in speed. And the worst feeling was the end of the ride. You had that feeling that you wanted more– that you deserved more, but unfortunately, time was up.

    Mid-major teams get their moments in the sun. Sometimes their recognition is greater because it comes from no where. One of the headlines about Mo’s success insinuated “the best players you’ve never heard of.” Well- thanks to articles like that– now you’ve heard of them. Mid-major basketball features those diamonds in the ruff. In the past, some have stayed (Tunji) and some have ventured on feeling as if their fortunes will be greater in a more recognizable settings.

    You can spend the next three years analyzing Mo’s decision and what is truly best for him. That’s up to you. But don’t bring down a whole program with it just because one talented player has decided to move on. This year’s Patriot League Champion was the team who was expected to finish 9th out of 10 teams in the pre-season. And then magic. This is college basketball at its greatest. A grinding, 30 game season with one goal in mind– a conference championship and the ONLY team in your conference to earn a chance to dance with those big names. Don’t sulk in the system…embrace the beauty of it. One team. One champion. BU has the same expectations as any team in the country every year.