This is not a preview article about what will happen. It is a preview article about what must happen. Last season, expectations for this team were so low that it would have been nearly impossible to dispense such insight, but now, this team is a year older and certain standards must be met. The truth in this piece may be somewhat harsh, but that’s because it’s the truth, after all.
The 2011-12 Eagles went 9-22 (4-12), picking up a couple nice wins along the way but ultimately losing too many non-conference games in embarrassing fashion and not being competitive enough in ACC play. Here is what the 2012-13 Eagles must do if they are to prove to themselves and us that their trajectory is pointing in the correct direction:
• Win a minimum of 9 non-conference games. This is not negotiable. Even bad BC teams during the Al Skinner days won their out-of-conference contests. The Eagles winning only five last year, despite the quality of the opposition not being great, was somewhat excusable. It will not be this year. The Eagles have to start turning some of those losses into wins, especially against teams from low-major conferences.
It is time that Boston College beats Harvard. This team must also take care of the lesser teams on their schedule that they should beat, like Dartmouth, Holy Cross, and New Hampshire. You can forgive them a bit against some of the better teams on the schedule, but by and large, this is not a difficult non-conference slate at all. They will play anywhere from 4 to 6 major-conference teams, and at least three of them stunk last year. The rest are teams that any passable BC team could beat on the right day.
One could probably live with 8-5 outside the conference, but anything below that and we’re treading into some very disappointing territory. It would almost certainly mean that BC lost a couple games they had no business losing.
• Win at least 7 ACC games. Remember, this isn’t previous years with 16-game schedules. It’s 18, so if I were to say “BC needs 6,” then they’re still losing 12 games just like last year. No, they have to come up with more wins. There were certain teams that were just way out of BC’s league, but if you go up and down the list last year, you’ll see those four ACC games the Eagles won, but several more in which they were highly competitive. A minimum of 7-11 in conference is not asking for much at all.
In case you’re mathematically challenged, (9 & 4) + (7 & 11) = 16-15 record heading into the ACC Tournament. Getting back to .500 absolutely has to be the base expectation for the Eagles. Note that I’m not saying that’s this team’s ceiling; rather, it is the minimum bar the Eagles must clear. That’s not asking for a lot, either: it says “clean up against weaker non-conference teams” and “find a way to win 39% of your conference games.” You can live with 15 wins but anything less than that means BC probably did not make as much progress as we would have liked, and anything close to what Boston College did last year would be a complete and total disaster.
• The sophomores will lead. I expect that Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon will have satisfactory freshman seasons with BC, and furthermore that they will have fine BC careers. It is, however, the sophomores who must get the job done. Specifically, I expect solid effort from Ryan Anderson and improvement from the rest, including the new captain, Dennis Clifford. Patrick Heckmann is one player in particular that needs to up his game. Yes, he was injured and sick last season, but coming over from the semi-pro leagues in Germany, Heckmann was regarded as being “ready” for the college game. BC could use the help this year, so he must show up.
• Be competitive in, if not win, an ACC Tournament game. If BC can get themselves away from that #12 seed and into a more favorable matchup, the odds increase. Look, if they eventually want to contend with this class, they’re going to have to learn how to win big games in March. You can give them a pass for last season because (a) they were a rebuilding team playing in a 5-12 game and (b) NC State, the team that beat them, wound up in the Sweet 16. The theme of this season will be progress. Making it to the second day would go a long way to proving it.
It may not feel like it, but this is a critical season for Boston College basketball. Either they’re going to start taking that step forward, or they’re not. How they do this year, with a year of experience under their belts, could either pave the way to future contention or help doom this class to long-term mediocrity. If the Eagles can make strides in all of these areas, if not surpass those expectations, this season will have been a success.