We continue on reviewing the year that was in 2011-12 Boston College sports, giving a final postmortem (for most teams, anyway) and committing their seasons to the history books. Today’s retrospective involves the BC men’s basketball team, which saw a tremendous amount of change.
The head coach, Steve Donahue, was the same, but the players definitely were not. Familiar faces like Reggie Jackson, Joe Trapani, Corey Raji, and Biko Paris, amongst others, were all gone. In came inexperienced 18-year olds such as Patrick Heckmann, Ryan Anderson, Lonnie Jackson, and Dennis Clifford, while adding a transfer in junior Matt Humphrey. In total, 75% of the opening day roster in November had never touched the court in a BC uniform.
As such, most people assumed this 2011-12 team would be bad. How bad was a matter of frequent debate, and the non-BC fan consensus was that the Eagles would win five games or less, probably not one in the ACC, and may rank amongst the conference’s worst teams of all-time. My prediction, on the other hand, was for 10 wins and at least two in the ACC. I was half-right, with BC managing only nine overall wins but four in the conference.
The new-look Eagles began their campaign on November 14 at Conte Forum while hosting the New Hampshire Wildcats. For the first time in a while, BC basketball and its fans were truly sailing into the unknown, not having a clue what to expect from the kids — or, for many, who they even were. On that first night, anyway, they got a 67-64 win in which Patrick Heckmann led the way with 19 points. It wasn’t perfect, and there were a lot of things the kids could do better, but at least for a few days, they were above .500.
Whatever good tidings had been fostered by the UNH win were barbecued at the DCU Center on November 18 as the young Eagles lost to Holy Cross by 22 points in a game that was nearly out of reach at halftime. It got even worse three days later at Conte Forum as the Eagles were pulverized by the Massachusetts Minutemen, 82-46. The latter, which was the fifth-worst BC sports moment of 2011, was basketball’s worst loss in eight years and most lopsided ever to UMass.
The 76 Classic in Anaheim over Thanksgiving break wasn’t much kinder. In the first game, BC played a better game against Saint Louis and still lost, then scratched and clawed their way to an overtime win over UC-Riverside (in which Heckmann dropped 32), and were easily dismissed by New Mexico. The two teams that beat them ended up being NCAA Tournament teams as expected, but it was still needed experience in playing better opposition.
A recurring theme in these losses, as it would be in many more of BC’s defeats in 2011-12, were sloppy mistakes and inexplicably-cold shooting. The dumb turnovers were a problem in most games, but the Eagles began to develop of habit of going offensively comatose for an extended stretch, sometimes for upwards of 10 minutes, allowing the opposition to pull away. What Eagles fans saw up until this point was only the beginning of the freshman frustration.