Though the non-conference portion of Boston College basketball’s 2012-13 season showed that the Eagles had not quite arrived just yet, we were not going to learn anything definitive about BC until they got into their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule. When they did, what the college basketball world learned is that the Eagles have a central theme and they stick to it.
For some teams, their theme is great shooting; for others, it might be smothering defense. For the Boston College Eagles, much like in the out-of-conference slate, it was “start slow, finish strong (except when you don’t finish the game at all).” This would not just happen in the ACC portion of the season, but in many individual games BC played. That’s clearly not the way Coach Steve Donahue drew it up, but this is a team that appears to need time to build forward momentum.
The Eagles are a slow-start sort of team, that their ACC schedule attests to that:
How many times during the second half of the year did Boston College start off an individual game slowly as well? Chances are, if you stuck by this team for all 33 of its games this season, you saw more than a few. It was in this portion of the campaign, however, where we saw another theme emerge: resiliency.
BC was picked to finish last in the ACC when the year began and many of the sports media talking heads figured another 20-loss season could be on its way. After all, BC lost 13 of their 17 games against conference opponents in early 2012 and also lost Matt Humphrey and Jordan Daniels. To succeed in the ACC, the Eagles would need big contributions from their freshman backcourt.
Some nights it went well and some nights it didn’t, but one thing the Eagles proved — particularly within the confines of their own arena — is that they would not back down from a fight. Many of the teams that came into Conte Forum were more talented, deeper, and more experienced, and yet, even some of the top teams in the nation barely escaped from Chestnut Hill with wins. Even though they might have fallen behind in these games, BC rarely looked like they were giving up. This determination served them well later in the season when they could actually finish those games in which they were performing so admirably.
At one point, the Eagles were the personification of the “Charlie Brown kicking the football” meme. They kept getting close to some important ACC wins, but Lucy Van Pelt just wouldn’t let them kick. Later on, BC was described as a team that “suddenly nobody wants to play in the ACC Tournament” and one that seemed to be putting things together. In a way, it’s regrettable that the Eagles didn’t have a few more games to continue — or it might just be disappointing that they didn’t start their surge sooner.
The Eagles started winning those tricky close games, then they won a road game at Clemson for the first time ever, and then they carried a three-game win streak to Greensboro in mid-March. After starting slowly against Georgia Tech, BC recovered for a comfortable win to advance to the ACC quarterfinals. While there, yet again, the Eagles took the Miami Hurricanes down to the last few minutes of the game before falling to the eventual conference champion.
Boston College basketball proved itself to be formidable opposition once the season entered its latter stages and they could finally beat teams on their own level. Some key players matured while others, like freshman Olivier Hanlan, flat-out excelled. Ryan Anderson remained a force on the boards while Eddie Odio emerged from a quiet freshman year to have a surprisingly good sophomore year, especially when he had the ball right under the hoop. The Eagles were far from the best team in the ACC when March rolled around, but they were much more dangerous to play than in January when it all began.
BC ended in eighth place, four spots higher than predicted by the ACC writers. Had they not recovered for a strong finish, they might have been vindicated and who knows what sort of depressing things we’d be saying about the Eagles today. With the conference about to get much more difficult over the next two seasons with Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Louisville all about to join, future BC teams will need to start their ACC slates with some momentum and carry it all the way through. If they keep improving during the offseason, then there’s no telling what the Eagles might do in this conference once January 2014 comes.