Why Can’t Boston College Basketball Finish?


This is perhaps a dumb statement to make as someone who has watched Boston College basketball throughout the darkness of the last five years or so, but they cannot finish games.

Yes, they are physically present on the court when the game is over. To clear up any ambiguity in the minds of the more densely-headed amongst us, “finishing” a basketball game means performing at an adequate level in the final moments. Not that Boston College basketball knows what that takes, because it is rare for them to do it.

This season — hell, this month — there are examples. Boston College technically finished in the Harvard game when it got to overtime, but they were lucky to win in regulation despite having held double-digit leads on several occasions. The Pittsburgh game, blowing a 10-point lead with about three minutes to go, was a disaster. Boston College faded badly in the USC game, and then countless games in the previous three years under Steve Donahue.

Obviously, Boston College has finished well in some games, because they have eight wins, but look at Virginia, today’s opponent. Closing out games is not a problem for a 16-0 basketball team. Aside from being talented, what does Virginia have that we on the Heights do not?

Two things, namely good defense and acclimation towards winning. With regards to the first, the Cavaliers have the best defense in the nation, and even if their shooting fails at the end of the game, they have a rock-solid defensive game on which to fall back and protect a lead. Jim Christian is trying to coach it, but it’s just not happening with this group.

As for the latter, Tony Bennett has had the Hoos winning for a while now, predating this season. Winning is not some mysterious and distant abstract for the Cavaliers: they do it all the time and they expect to do it. Boston College averaged 21 losses a season in Donahue’s final three year.

It can be a snowball effect for this team, as we have seen in the past. The more they fold it up late and lose, the more of an expectation it becomes. Christian inherited a Boston College basketball program with a losing mentality and that is hard to overcome.

Yesterday, the Boston Globe published a piece about the Eagles figuring out how to close. Quoth the coach on finishing:

"“. . . For us, sometimes, it’s just fundamental things. Be strong with the ball. Value it in the backcourt. Execute the press-break. Some of it we’ve had to learn because so many guys are playing so many minutes and are dead tired, so they’re going to have to execute under ridiculous fatigue that other teams don’t. That’s just the hand we’ve been dealt.”Boston College men’s basketball seeks finishing touch in ACC play (Boston Globe, Michael Vega)"

Boston College Eagles
Boston College Eagles /

Boston College Eagles

I mean, okay. Christian stresses the importance of defense and fundamentals but also (earlier) pointed the finger at the offense not making their shots. They are tired at the end of games, sure, but this is not something that has changed. They’re not deep, they’re not conditioned enough, they may or may not be confident, and they often don’t make the offensive or defensive plays they need to make at the end of games.

After three and a half years with this particular group of players, it is probably not going to fix itself. This is not to say there is a lack of trying, but trying and doing are separate issues. As stated here in the past, the best solution is a roster overhaul combined with teaching players the right ways to do things, which will take time. Other issues like depth are likewise crucial.

But maybe there will be a lull in that consistent element of Boston College basketball game today.

Next: Boston College-UVA Basketball Gameday