The Boston College Eagles men’s basketball team started off their season at home the right way on Sunday, defeating Florida International by 14 points. When the going got tough for the Eagles, who went 9-22 last season in a rebuilding year, they buckled down and went on a late 12-0 run to reestablish order and lock down the victory. They may be 1-0 now, but their chances of going 2-0 are far more dicey. On Thursday afternoon, the Eagles are heading to Charleston, SC to face #16 Baylor.
These two programs have no history at all, and yet, they do. Boston College and Baylor have never before met in basketball, but one of Baylor’s best shooters is the cause of the link between these teams. Brady Heslip was a Boston College recruit who sat on the bench in maroon and gold before transferring. He never touched the court for the Eagles, and after Al Skinner was dismissed as BC’s coach, he never would. Now, he plays for the Bears, and has helped guide them to the national rankings again.
Heslip’s former team is still recovering from a near-total roster turnover, but even in just one game this season, they’ve shown signs of improvement. The offense did better work on Sunday than at almost any point last year, keyed by a tremendous performance from Ryan Anderson. Boston College scored 84 points despite having made only two three-pointers the entire game, and much of that had to do with going to the basket and drawing contact, then making the free throws while at the line. Strong offensive rebounding also created second-chance opportunities for the Eagles against FIU.
But that was FIU, and this is Baylor. One would expect a Bears roster that’s a little longer and a little stronger, and probably more physical as well. If Boston College were to do any damage at all on the boards, it would speak very well of them, especially considering how lacking they were last season.
Where Baylor makes their money is in offense, as seen by Heslip and other players like Isaiah Austin, Pierre Jackson, and Cory Jefferson. Against two lesser teams this season, the Bears are shooting 58% as a team, but are only knocking down a quarter of their threes (which one can expect would go up against the Eagles unless they figure out perimeter defense by Thursday afternoon). Another thing Baylor has done so far is collect rebounds: the Bears had just over 40 in both of their games, with double-digit offensive rebounds in each.
Make no mistake: this is a very good team Boston College is about to play, and one that should give all of us a true read of where the Eagles are in their development. At this point last season, they were busy getting crushed by the likes of Holy Cross and UMass. A representative performance against a ranked team would indicate that they’ve come miles from where they were in 2011-12.
That could be counting on a lot, however. Other than the fact that Boston College’s offense looks more aggressive, we can’t read much of anything into a game against FIU. Chances are Baylor will win on Thursday, but the Eagles can help themselves out a lot if they maintain that aggressiveness and let it carry over onto the defensive side of the ball. The Eagles will also need to cut down on the turnovers, of which they had way too many against FIU. A lot of things are going to need to come together for BC to be able to win this game or to even have a chance, but it may not be completely beyond this team to pull a shocking upset. After all, they’ve done it before: just ask Florida State.