On Thursday afternoon, a season that all Boston College fans knew would be long and painful came to an end. A team with nine freshmen got broken in and, predictably, the Eagles basketball program had its worst stretch in quite some time. While expectations were extremely low, some benchmarks were set and fans counted on seeing some player development as well. Keeping all of this in perspective along with BC’s 9-22 (4-12) record, did this basketball team accomplish its goals?
Recall our basketball season preview in November. In it, I said that I was not buying the media’s 25+ loss predictions of doom. Furthermore, I predicted this:
• Boston College basketball wins at least 10 games
• Boston College basketball wins at least 2 ACC games
Here’s what actually happened:
• BC basketball wins 9 games
• BC basketball wins 4 ACC games (including one against a ranked team)
Boston College basketball underachieved on the overall win mark but overachieved in the ACC, and anyone who watched this team play in the conference will tell you the latter is definitely the case.
With regards to the former, we all knew that it would be a bumpy start for the Eagles, but they did manage to win their first game of the season against New Hampshire. Few expected that they would be as bad as they were in the non-conference schedule, however. If you had asked me for a specific breakdown of wins before the season, I would have said eight out-of-conference wins and two ACC wins; we got five and four, which is great on the ACC side but weak outside of it. BC could have won that tenth game, but it went up in smoke in Blacksburg, Virginia with about two seconds to go.
Some of those non-conference losses for the Eagles were legitimately atrocious. The worst of them all had to be UMass, who went to Conte Forum in the team’s third game and beat BC by 36. Boston College was able to recover somewhat, but considering the quality of their opposition, the out-of-conference schedule was a little disappointing, even for a brand new team.
The Eagles far and away exceeded people’s expectations for the ACC part of the schedule. Media talking heads on ESPN and elsewhere had this team firmly on track for zero conference victories while others compounded it by saying BC would end up as the worst ACC team of all-time. Neither of those things happened, and along the way, Boston College was able to spring a major upset of then-#17 Florida State. Of course, eight of their nine wins during the season (including FSU) were at home, but they still count, and few people gave BC a chance to even play competitively with such a team.
BC’s record in the ACC does not even take into account the handful of games in which they were close to their opponents well into the second half, only to run out of gas and collapse, including Thursday’s ACC Tournament game. A better-conditioned, more seasoned Eagles team might very well have been able to flip some of those games from losses into wins.
Steve Donahue had his work cut out for him not only in trying to win games, but attempting to mold 18-year olds into serviceable ACC players. It happened for some. Ryan Anderson, the star recruit the Eagles hauled in from California, played like one. In my estimation, he was the only player who, once he began to develop and get comfortable in his own skin, started looking consistently good from game to game, especially towards the end. Of course, there were some bumps in the road, but Anderson outshone the rest of the freshmen.
As for the rest of them, some (the ones who got off the bench, that is) had better seasons than others, and some had individually great games, but the results were somewhat uneven. Individual player evaluations are coming soon.
Did Boston College improve as the season went along? Yes, but again, it was not uniform. Their four ACC wins count for a lot more than their five non-conference wins against crap teams, though even during their ACC schedule, they did not always look like they got better from game to game. Some nights they were competitive, while others they looked like they wanted to go back to their dorms and play Xbox 360 right from the start. This sort of thing can be expected from a team of freshmen, and conditioning over a 31-game season plays a factor, so it would be reasonable to say BC did make strides during the 2011-12 campaign.
If you are looking at Boston College’s goals in terms of wins and losses, then they certainly exceeded expectations. They started slower than we thought, but finished stronger. In terms of player development, there were successes and disappointments like on any team, though there are pieces with which Donahue can work in the future. It was not a smooth linear progression from really bad and raw to decent and seasoned, because it never works that way, but in some respects BC basketball did get better, and they have at least set themselves up to be somewhat respectable in seasons to follow.