Despite consecutive 16-point losses to Duke and Florida State on the road, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has BC holding steady as a 9-seed. Indeed, those are two teams that despite playing poorly against them, those losses can be forgiven. There’s no doubt, however, that the Eagles are at a critical junction in their season: Selection Sunday is on March 13, a mere month and twelve days away, and the regular season is at its peak. BC is sitting at 14-7 (4-3) and though they boast fine RPI and strength of schedule factors, what they need most are wins.
I give you two home games against North Carolina and Virginia Tech, two teams which are gunning for the NCAA Tournament themselves. The former will be played tonight, and the latter on Saturday. My contention is that Boston College must win no fewer than one of those two games or their season is in serious danger, and I will explain why.
There’s no question as to which of BC’s wins is the best: Texas A&M. Given that, ask yourself: what’s the second best? It will probably take you some time to think about it, because nobody else particularly stands out. Maryland? Tough but underachieving, and have the same record as we do. California? Middle-of-the-road Pac-10 team, nothing more. South Carolina? Barely contending in the SEC East. You get the idea. The fact of the matter is that BC has but one legitimate “signature” win on their resume, with a few millstone-around-the-neck losses. The Eagles may have treaded water by losing to good teams on the road, but the road in front of them is getting a little short, and eventually, they will have to add quality wins.
Remember, the “magic number”
of wins that BC should be targeting is 20. Right now, the Eagles are at 14, with nine games remaining in the regular season and at least one in Greensboro in March. Let’s suppose for a moment that BC loses both of these next two games. They’d be at 14-9 (4-5), on a four-game losing streak, and heading back out on the road. Their remaining seven-game schedule after that would be, in order, at Clemson, home against Maryland, at North Carolina, home against Miami, at Virginia, at Virginia Tech, and home against Wake Forest. Now recall that if BC already has 9 losses, and 1 more is likely to come in the ACC Tournament, that means BC would only have room to safely be able to lose one game the rest of the way. That means that in a stretch where they must play at Clemson (where BC has gotten blown out every time they’ve played), at UNC, and at Virginia Tech, they would have to all but run the table. It’s not impossible, but such a task would be very difficult, no matter how “down” the conference is.
Quite frankly, if they can’t win either game at home against these two teams, then where the hell are they going to get those wins from? I know that UNC is on the upswing and VT is a tough out, but these are home games, and the Eagles need the quality wins. Let’s be clear: with one good win, a few OK wins, and the rest by fattening up on lesser teams, that’s not going to scream “tournament caliber” to the committee. Further, with a majority of these being road games, there will be many challenges. Miami and Maryland wouldn’t exactly roll over and die, either. Would you want it to have to come down to BC needing a win at the Dean Dome again, or BC needing to make a run to the ACC semifinals just to recover? The Eagles have an opportunity here to get things back on track before the situation becomes dire, and they have to take it.
Winning one game of the two would be a push. At least the Eagles would be able to say they beat one of those teams as they go to Clemson at 15-8 (5-4). That makes the schedule situation a slight bit more manageable, but they’ll still need to find a way to pull four or five more wins out of their backsides before March 13.
Winning both of these games, particularly UNC, would add more depth to BC’s resume, bump them up to 16 wins with six in the conference, and give them some more momentum heading into the stretch run. In a sense, the course of the season is in their hands right now. Win these games and you’re back on the map moving upwards, not treading water and not collapsing. Win one and at least you accomplished something. Lose both and the NCAA math turns against you: you’re sub-.500 in conference, likely closing in on the maximum limit of losses, and still have four more road games to enjoy, at least three of which will be very difficult. This is why BC needs these games a lot more than it might seem.