Team: Boston College Eagles
Last season's record: 9-22 overall, 4-12 in ACC (last in conference)
Key additions: Olivier Hanlan, Joe Rahon
How did last season go for the Eagles?
Not particularly well as far as wins and losses are concerned. Finishing last in the ACC and well under .500 overall is never an ideal situation. That said, those records don't come close to tell you the whole story. BC gave an unbelievable number of minutes to freshmen last year. More often than not, those freshmen looked overwhelmed or simply overpowered by older, more mature ACC players. Throughout the entire season, coach Steve Donahue stressed that while he wants to win, you need to look beyond the box score to truly evaluate this team. Each of these now-sophomores got an opportunity to play lots of basketball in a difficult conference and gained valuable experience. With a year having gone by, we're ready to see bigger, stronger, more confident players in 2012-13.
What are the Eagles' strengths?
This may sound a bit strange, but BC's biggest strength might be the fact that they do not have a star player. Now, hear me out. If you're at all familiar with NBA basketball, you recognize that it's a star-driven league. The best teams are almost always led by a superstar that is among the best 5 to 10 players in the league. So often you see teams comprised of a bunch of really solid, but not fantastic, players hit a wall. Team basketball is incredibly important at any level, but there comes a point when you need to just give the ball to Kevin Durant and let him win you a game. Ultimately, these superstar-led teams end up winning championships while the more well-rounded but unspectacular teams fizzle out.
So why is the lack of a star player a strength of the Eagles? It comes down to the fact that the "stars" in college basketball simply aren't as dominant as NBA stars. They're too inconsistent and the gap between them and the rest of the players isn't large enough to make as big of a difference. For example, when Reggie Jackson played at BC a couple of years ago, he was a star. He was obviously the team's best player and he probably even won us a few games on his own. But over the course of a long conference schedule, he just wasn't *that* good. He was good, don't get me wrong. But he wasn't one of these guys that opposing teams just can't stop. So when you have a player at that level, who's clearly your best player but not quite a star, you have a problem. You start getting away from team basketball and forcing the issue. As of right now, there's no unquestioned star of this team. And for a young program that's trying to develop together -- that's a good thing. There won't be the expectation for everybody to defer to that "star" when the game is on the line. Instead, they'll stick to their schemes and grow together as a whole. If we're still considering BC basketball a work in progress (and I certainly am), then the fact that opponents can't game plan to stop one guy and the idea that the team works as a cohesive unit will benefit them in the long run.
What are the Eagles' weaknesses?
Simply put -- inconsistency and youth. While many of the key players such as Ryan Anderson, Dennis Clifford, Lonnie Jackson, etc. got significant playing time last year -- they're still young. As a result, we're going to see all of the ups and downs that young basketball players go through. We saw plenty of inexperience last year, but it will still be present to a certain degree. There will be times when the offense stalls out and they can't get a bucket. There will be times when an opposing player consistently takes advantage of a particular weakness. A more veteran team may react and adjust quicker, but these guys are young. The upside of this is that we'll see less of it. Hopefully those 5 or 6 minute scoreless streaks get cut down to 1 or 2 minutes. It's a work in progress. And it's progressing nicely, by all accounts. But we can't pretend like these are a bunch of seasoned vets.
What are the goals for this season?
Man, I could copy this section word-for-word from my preview for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The key word is progress. That means being more competitive against teams like North Carolina and Duke. That means competing for the full 40 minutes instead of crapping out after 36 minutes. We want to see a more polished, smooth offensive system. And we want to see guys being able to perform more consistently on both ends of the court. Ryan Anderson has the talent and skill to be a very good ACC player. So does Dennis Clifford. Patrick Heckmann, too. But they aren't there yet and probably won't totally get there this season either. But the goal is to see them get closer. Visible progress on a game-by-game basis is what we ought to be focusing on. Whether or not this progress is reflected on the scoreboard and in the standings remains to be seen. But the idea is that they will get better as individual players and as a team -- it should be pretty exciting to watch.