The Boston College men's basketball season is (mercifully) over. And while I'm not jumping off the Steve Donahue bandwagon just yet, I'm not all that optimistic for next season, either.
Here are a few reasons why I think we should temper expectations a bit for next season.
Youth, Inexperience & Unfamiliar Faces
Yes, this team will have already played together for a season. Yes, all those freshmen that litter the roster will now be sophomores. Still, this rebuilding job is going to take time. Like, more time than six months. Donahue said as much in yesterday's post-game press conference.
Just because we played a lot of freshman doesn't mean we are going to be a good basketball team next year. We've got to utilize that experience and now you know what the bar is set at, and you have to go out and improve.
We all saw first hand what happens when you ask a bunch of inexperienced players to play together for the first time at the beginning of the season. While the issue won't be as nearly as bad as it was at the beginning of this season, this team will still need time to adjust to one another with the additions of Hanlan and Rahon. The trip to Spain will help, but there will still be some growing pains, especially if Hanlan wins the starting PG job over Daniels.
In addition to the fact that this team is still extremely young and will be adding some new faces next season, there are a number of macro factors that I think will limit the Eagles in 2012-13.
Unless we go out and schedule every truly awful New England college basketball program next season, the non-conference portion of the schedule isn't getting any easier than it was this past year. The best major conference program BC faced this year was Penn State. The Nittany Lions finished 12-19. BC also faced these college hoops powerhouses (current kenpom ranking in parenthesis):
134 Stony Brook
178 Boston University
207 Rhode Island
226 Holy Cross
239 Sacred Heart
281 UC Riverside
293 New Hampshire
Unless BC manages to schedule all of their non-conference games against Bryant and/or New Hampshire next season, the non-conference portion of the schedule will be significantly more difficult in 2012-13.
ACC schedule rotation
The bad news is that Syracuse and Pittsburgh won't be joining the conference in time for the 2012-13 season. That's bad news because that means the ACC will likely continue its three-year schedule rotation next season. The Eagles will be trading in home-and-home series with rotating partners Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and N.C. State with Duke, Florida State and Clemson. Ouch.
18-game conference schedule
The ACC also announced that they will be moving to an 18-game conference schedule starting next season, with or without Syracuse and Pittsburgh. If the conference continues its current schedule rotation (see directly above) and simply adds two more rotating partners, that means BC will have an extra two games against this group of teams -- Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Wake Forest.
With BC's luck, those two extra games will come against Carolina and N.C. State or Virginia.
Two more conference games means two less non-conference games next season, and two less opportunities to pad the W column with victories over Bryant and Stony Brook.
Rest of the conference
Finally, the rest of the conference simply isn't standing still as the Eagles get better. Each of the 11 other programs figure to improve on what truly was a bad, bad year for the conference as a whole. Maryland, N.C. State, Miami and Georgia Tech will all have coaches going into their second years with the program. BC went 1-7 against those teams in 2011-12.
Bzdelik's Wake program and Brownell's Clemson program will both have an extra year under their belts.
Florida State and Virginia don't seem to be going anywhere and Duke and Carolina are, well, Duke and Carolina.
You can't like BC's chances at competing in an improving ACC in 2012-13. Yes, BC managed to win four conference games this year with a ragtag group of freshmen, but this was a truly awful year for ACC basketball. BC's four wins were by a total of 12 points, they played home-and-homes against the three other teams that finished the year 4-12 and missed playing the top four teams in the league twice -- North Carolina, Duke, Florida State and Virginia.
All that said, do I think Donahue is a good coach? Yes, absolutely, though recruiting will be key. Donahue deserves at least a couple more seasons to prove out that his system can work in the ACC. Just don't go expecting a 7-8 win swing from this season to next. This thing is going to take a little longer than you or I would like.