A look ahead to the big stories that will define this sports season on The Heights
We spent this week making some predictions about what we'll see this year in BC athletics. Now, I take a look at ten storylines that will define this season:
Ten Storylines for 2013/14:
1. Steve Addazzio's in-game coaching:
While Frank Spaziani's inept handling of recruiting and game planning was certainly the worst and most damaging aspect of his reign as BC head coach, the most aggravating thing to watch, as a fan, was his bungling on game day. From terrible clock management, to mind-boggling playcalling, to the ultraconservative, play-not-to-lose mentality, Spaz's game day decision making was enough to make you pop a blood vessel.
One of the criticisms of the Addazio hire is the gameday playcalling, with his "Divemaster" reputation following him from Florida. A return to some of the swashbuckling aggression of the Jags/Logan era would be refreshing, but at this point, I'll settle for basic competence.
2. Johnny Gaudreau's quest for the Hobey Baker award:
It seems like the Hobey Watch has been non-stop on Chestnut Hill since Johnny Gaudreau posterized Ferris State in the 2012 NCAA championship game. While BC fans were on the Gaudreaubey Baker bandwagon from day one last year, this year, the national spotlight will be on him, as he will go into the season as the favorite after leading the nation in points per game last year.
As Brian mentioned in his season predictions, the increased non-conference games should give Gaudreau more of a chance to shine and put up gaudy point totals. That might help in the push to make Gaudreau BC's third ever Hobey winner.
3. Jerry York's health:
It's something we'd rather not think about, but Jack Parker's retirement has led many to wonder how long Jerry York will remain behind the bench at BC. That was made even more of a talking point when York missed many games down the stretch after a series of eye surgeries due to a detatched retina.
By all accounts, York is healthy and ready to go for the upcoming season. But any flareup of that eye problem will likely cause a lot of worry.
4. Can BC hang on to - and build on - its football recruiting class?
The Dazzler has made a name for himself early on the recruiting trail, firing up BC fans with a nationally ranked class. Now, the big question: as these recruits get more attention from bigger name programs, will BC be able to hang on to all of them? And can the Eagles add final pieces to the class in order to give the program the talent injection it sorely needs in the fall of 2014?
5. Can BC women's hockey take the next step?
For several years, the women's hockey team has looked like the likeliest candidate to give BC its first NCAA national championship in something other than men's hockey. But for the third straight season, BC fell short in the national semifinal, falling to a western juggernaut. With rosters shuffled up this year due to the Olympics, and a very strong recruiting class coming in, BC's women may be able to get over the hump this year and earn that first star.
6. Will Brad Bates' initiatives revitalize the BC fan community?
Brad Bates came in last year with enthusiasm for BC sports at a long-time low. He has a tall task ahead of him to rebuild attendance and enthusiasm for both football and basketball, while also forging ahead on important capital projects such as football's needed indoor practice facility. Bates has been praised for a number of fan-friendly initiatives this year, including some improvements to gameday parking and tailgating policies. Will these and other initiatives be enough to raise excitement and attendance at BC sporting events?
7. Conference realignment:
Both the ACC and Hockey East see some changes this year. In hockey, Notre Dame moves in, changing the entire structure of the Hockey East season, increasing emphasis on non-conference play and adding a new powerhouse to an already-stacked conference. In the ACC, we see the return of traditional rivals to the schedule as BC hosts 'Cuse and Notre Dame in basketball while traveling to Syracuse in football.
8. Can men's basketball make March Madness fun again?
Olivier Hanlan's sick performance in the ACC tournament gave BC fans a reminder of how enjoyable the postseason can be. This year, fans will be hungry for the next step - postseason participation and, hopefully, contention for an NCAA tournamenet spot. This is a huge year for Steve Donahue. I suspect the team will be in the tournament conversation, but if they're not, Donahue's seat could start toget hot.
9. The new student ticket policies and their impact on atmosphere:
BC plans to revamp the way student sports tickets are sold this year, adding a "gold pass" to all three major sports, introducing a rewards system to reward attending lower-level games with access to big events like BU and Duke at home, and changing around the student section for basketball to put students along the sideline and closer to the court. Student support for hockey and football has been stellar, even as the football program has circled the drain. But attendance at basketball has been horrid unless Duke or UNC are in town. Will these changes impact attendance and atmosphere?
10. Baseball: it's time to do something about it, or stop trying
This one's self-explanatory. The baseball program can't continue to be a no-hope operation playing on a football tailgating lot. Dan Rubin tells me there's some talent on the roster for 2014. Will they be able to put together some wins? It's fair to say that structural difficulties will always make it hard for BC to compete in baseball, and that may be true. But we need to see progress this year toward either building a winning team, or building an actual baseball facility. If neither happens, we need to either replace the coach or axe the program.