Yesterday was all about taking stock of what Boston College basketball achieved against teams from outside the Atlantic Coast Conference; today, there are eleven other teams inside the ACC who need evaluation relative to where BC stands. Nobody gains an NCAA Tournament bid in non-conference play but they sure can lose it (not that BC is in the running for one); conference play is where you make your biggest moves. It would be insulting to the intelligence of the audience to have to explain that BC will generally face better talent in the ACC than in the games before it, but it is nevertheless true. That’s also why it’s been such an area of concern. Given what we know of this conference so far, what will BC do this season?
The following is a quick and sloppy evaluation of where the 12 ACC teams stand up to the moment:
• Boston College (8-5): young; relatively weak but improving; some bad losses but none lately
• Clemson (8-4): not great; a couple bad losses; played a weak schedule aside from Arizona and Gonzaga
• Duke (13-0): the best team in the conference and nation at present
• Florida State (8-5): talented but definitely overrated at start of season; one decent win and three very bad losses, the most recent last night
• Georgia Tech (10-2): improving; St. Mary’s best win so far but not a signature win
• Maryland (12-1): good team with respectable talent; played a very light OOC schedule aside from Kentucky
• Miami (9-3): reasonably good team but somewhat of an enigma without Reggie Johnson for an extended period
• NC State (11-2): second-best ACC team at present; potent offense; good depth of talent; no bad losses
• North Carolina (10-3): very talented but undisciplined; good but not the best recent UNC team
• Virginia (10-3): decent but relying on some new faces this season; played a light OOC schedule; very bad loss to ODU
• Virginia Tech (9-4): rebuilding; overachieved to start season and are now beginning to collapse
• Wake Forest (7-5): least impressive ACC team at the moment; lost to all 3 major-conference opponents; took them until last night to get their first decent win vs. Xavier
There are a few excellent teams in the ACC, and then a tier of good but not elite teams, but aside from that, the rest of the conference seems to be wide-open. That is not unlike last season when the core of the Eagles were all freshmen, but what’s different about this year is that BC has been able to win more games and build steadier momentum. They also arguably have better talent at guard with Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon both playing very well considering their ages.
Teams like Duke and NC State will present their major challenges, BC never wins at Clemson, and some of these other road games won’t be pretty, but these 2012-13 Eagles are not markedly worse than most of the teams in this conference. That will not necessarily translate into wins, but based upon what the 12 conference teams have done so far, BC is not so far out of its depth that they’ll glide to 3-15 or something like that. Games like the two against Miami may have gotten easier knowing that Reggie Johnson won’t be appearing in them, Virginia Tech is going the wrong way, the Eagles may well have passed Wake Forest, and BC will probably be competitive in a majority of their home games.
The bottom line is that there are wins to be had out there if the Eagles can hold their nerve and not get too frustrated by the physical play of this conference. A key for Boston College will be the health of Dennis Clifford; the Eagles need his size in the low post and when he’s played in limited minutes recently he has done fine defensively. Those minutes (and his injury) are the problem, and BC needs him at 100% in ACC play.
If Boston College can continue showing the improvements they’ve made in the last couple weeks, it isn’t out of the question that they can fight their way to, say, a 7-11 record or so. It is pointless to try to predict individual games at this stage, given that some will be played two months from now, but generally speaking, that is both a reasonable and realistic goal. Anything better than that and the Eagles would all but guarantee themselves a winning record for the season, which would probably get them in range for bigger things in 2013-14. Of course, the league will get bigger and better next season, and bigger-er and better-er the year after, but this season, there is some real mediocrity outside of the elite levels of the ACC. This Boston College team is better equipped to compete with that mediocrity and steal some more games.