After five Atlantic Coast Conference games and 18 overall contests, what can we admit about Boston College Eagles men’s basketball?
That they fight until the end? Yes.
That the composition of talent is better right now than it was last season? Most certainly.
That they’re generally more competitive in games now than they used to be? Of course.
That they’ve figured out how to close out games? Well, not exactly.
If you have all four of those things, you’ve got a better team that will reward itself for its hard work with wins. Boston College has done all of the above, from improving in terms of talent to never giving up, but as far as figuring out how to win? Last night’s game at Maryland, a 64-59 loss, showed that there is still much work to be done before the Eagles can be taken seriously in this conference.
BC won nine games all of last season; they got to that mark at the halfway point of this year. There is no question that they’re better, and we can give a large part of the thanks to Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon, who were every bit as ready to play at this level as the preseason reports indicated. Like Ryan Anderson did last year, Hanlan seems well on his way to making the ACC All-Freshman Team, and the both of them might have greater heights in their future.
At the end of the day, you can’t spin Boston College’s being 1-4 in the ACC, but you can say this: they haven’t been badly outclassed in any game, and there will be few times this season where that will be the case (if they play a tight game against Duke at Cameron, then it will be time to be impressed). The Eagles are showing they belong in this league, except for the part where they’re not winning any of these close games. In College Park on Tuesday night, BC fought back from an exceptionally bad offensive start to tie and spent all night trying to sustain a lead, but they could not. Down the stretch, the Eagles had some breakdowns once more and Maryland took advantage for a narrow win. Indeed, several of BC’s ACC opponents to this point were fortunate to have gotten their victories.
Still, even though there is no reason for panic, if you root for Boston College, you want to see them rewarded for their effort with wins. The “moral victory” bit is good joke fodder but nothing else. Close losses count for nothing in the standings and all of these indecisive defeats probably don’t sit well with some, maybe even a few guys in maroon and gold. The worry is that, like losing five straight games to Harvard, when and if BC keeps losing these close games, perhaps it gets in their head that they can’t win these sorts of contests. Confidence stems from victory — in proving to themselves that they can do it.
This is the year to start learning: expectations and the pressure therein are still both quite low for the Eagles, but next year, they are going to have to start winning games like last night’s. A team cannot be expected to win every game or even every close game, but so far, BC has played four of them and are 0-4. If they have tournament designs next season, that cannot be the case.
There is still time for Boston College to figure out how to close out games and win when the late-game pressure is high. If not, then we have a long ACC season of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown in front of us.