Heading into the 2012-13 season, we knew what we were up against: a young, bad Boston College basketball team that had to struggle to go 9-22 with a core of freshmen leading the way coming back for a second round. Expectations had to be tempered, but improvement was required. As non-conference play has officially come to a close for the Boston College Eagles, has this basketball team shown signs of improvement?
The short answer to that question is yes, but it was not pretty getting there.
First, a look at the season expectations as published two months ago with regards to out-of-conference games:
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.
The Eagles went 8-5, which is close enough to that minimum of nine, but think of some of the games BC lost that would have gotten them to nine or above. One that sticks out like a sore thumb is Bryant — it does not matter how “good” they are relative to their norm, because BC had no business losing to them. There were also a number of scary near-misses and, of course, they lost to Harvard again, but they did something they had not done at all last year: BC got hot.
Everything seemed to change about two weeks ago when Providence came to Conte Forum. Boston College played their best game of the season in staring down a more talented major-conference opponent, claiming the win and getting above .500 on the season. We’ve mentioned the Florida State game last season and compared it to this, but there are two key differences: (1) FSU was ranked, Providence is not, but both were talented teams that were expected to win handily, and (2) BC built momentum off of the Providence win, but did not off of the FSU win.
BC beating the Friars in December was their best win since that Seminoles game in February, but thanks to relatively light scheduling and an increase in team confidence, they have not lost since. In a way, the FSU game last season counted for very little because the Eagles essentially didn’t win another game thereafter, but this team has managed to keep it going. That is a very encouraging development; it does not mean that BC will blaze through ACC play, but it does mean that things are finally trending in the right direction.
Make no mistake: the Providence game salvaged the non-conference slate. Expectations of a win heading into the contest were slim, especially after they had just lost to Harvard and barely beaten St. Francis and New Hampshire in their previous three games, but Providence showed that the Eagles could put together 40 solid minutes of basketball. Since then, BC has dispensed with their opposition without too much of a problem and now ride a 5-game win streak into ACC play; the last time BC had won a fifth-consecutive game was in December 2010.
Overall, there is still much work to be done in getting this team competitive in ACC play, but aside from some nasty bumps in the road, Boston College held together and managed an acceptable 8-5 record outside the conference. That’s not going to be good enough in future seasons, but considering where BC was last season, it’s more than enough for now to prove that the Eagles are making progress.