Last night, the Boston College Eagles men’s basketball team went to Blacksburg, Virginia and came out with not only their first ACC win of the season, but their first ACC road win as a team. When players like Ryan Anderson, Dennis Clifford, and Lonnie Jackson were freshmen, they searched all year for that accomplishment outside of Conte Forum but they did not find it. Now, with some experience and a surprisingly good freshman backcourt, the Eagles are starting to move in the right direction.
Wednesday night’s game against Virginia Tech was imperfect. Free throw shooting was impossibly bad for long stretches and there were a couple defensive lapses; further, the press continues to give them trouble. In some previous games, Boston College has made careless mistakes and has not been able to maintain any sort of consistency. In spite of that, the Eagles are 9-6, matching last year’s win total with sixteen regular-season games remaining. It is all but certain now that this BC version will win more games than they did in 2011-12.
We cannot use the results to this point to extrapolate where this team is headed for the next two months, and there are other variables to consider, such as player injuries and accumulating player fatigue. It is extremely fair to say right now, however, that BC has improved through this point in the season, which is nearly half-way.
One may say “the non-conference schedule wasn’t that challenging and Virginia Tech isn’t that good, so you can’t really say that.” Yes, I can.
For one thing, observe this team. Certain statistical measures may not show significant improvement over last year, but there is no question that the results are better. Yet, that’s not the issue at hand here: this season, we see some previously-absent aggressiveness. We see some better ball movement and, on occasion, defense. We see a team that is turning the ball over less, currently about three fewer times per game so far this season. Finally, we see a team that is beginning to respond and close out games. In 2011-12, BC was every bit the definition of a “hot mess,” but now, that would be an inaccurate description. They aren’t great by any stretch and there is much work left to be done, but they are beginning to look relatively sound to the naked eye.
Second, those who would discount wins over teams like Virginia Tech would kindly note that Boston College did not win any road games at all last season, including losing games to teams that were nearly as bad as the Eagles were. The Hokies are sinking fast, that much is clear, but this is the kind of game BC always found a way to lose last year. Take credit away from BC for winning six of their last seven against some unimpressive teams if you must, but bear in mind that the ’11-12 Eagles never had a stretch like this, because they were losing to most of those unimpressive teams. This year, there have been disasters like Bryant, but now they are winning some games they most certainly would have lost last season. By definition, that is improvement.
The Eagles could go on and lose their next sixteen in a row, but chances are they won’t. Nobody knows how BC will hold together through the rigors of ACC play, but as it stands right now, BC is neither the worst major-conference team nor the worst ACC team. Last year’s bunch was at least one of those things, so the trajectory is definitely heading up.