Brian: Last year left you scratching your head. This year? I'm pretty much speechless. Harvard took down Boston College 74-67 for their second win in as many years against the Eagles. The Eagles led at half but were outscored by 9 in the second half to fall to 6-3 on the season. From what I could gather watching the Gamecast, BC's defense was abysmal as they allowed the Crimson to shoot better than 50% from the field in the second half. Jeremy Lin again led the way, scoring 25 points in the victory. BC, on the other hand, finished the game shooting 37.5 percent. The team was actually shooting 46 percent at halftime, so that puts their field goal percentage in the second half probably in the 20s.
If BC hadn’t already lost to Saint Joseph’s and Northern Iowa in the Virgin Islands, we might be able to forgive this loss. However, the Eagles are now a pedestrian 6-3 on the early season, and suddenly games against Massachusetts and South Carolina look like virtual must-wins. So where do the Eagles go from here? Fan interest in this year’s basketball season will certainly suffer as a result of 3 early losses to mid-majors, right?
Jeff: Last year left you scratching your head. This year there's an excuse. Actually two excuses. I would say first that the loss last year clearly had a residual effect on the team this year. Once again the team was coming off of a televised ACC win and was looking ahead to another televised game coming up. Once things starting turning Harvards way in the second half, the Eagles probably got nervous that the same embarrassing loss would happen again as happened last year. Sure enough, it did.
The bigger excuse the Eagles have this year is that they are missing a key starter in Rakim Sanders. Sanders might even be the Eagles best player so while I am bummed about the loss, I am actually not overly concerned. Last year the Harvard game was a huge trap game after beating No. 1 ranked North Carolina and this year the injured Rakim Sanders and the game falling once again after an ACC game at least gives the team some good excuses. BC had already drastically hurt their non-conference resume by what happened in the Virgin Islands and you couldn't have expected them to win out between that debacle and our next conference game. The team will get right back to trying to win the next game in front of them and then trying to finish top 4 in the ACC so they can get a bye in the ACC Tournament. Fans, however, will jump off the deep end after this loss for unknown reasons. This is college basketball, not college football. Teams can rack up some early season losses, especially in untelevised games, and still recover to make the tournament. Just look at the 2008-09 Eagles.
Brian: I am much less forgiving that you are. I just don’t buy into these excuses. Ok, maybe last year’s loss had an effect on this year’s squad in some sort of a bizarro vicious cycle where BC lost the lead in the second half and then psyched themselves into the pain and embarrassment that is losing to Harvard for the second straight season. Maybe.
Not having Rakim Sanders on the floor, however, is not an excuse. The Eagles had Rakim Sanders (and Tyrese Rice) last year and they couldn’t beat Harvard. This year, BC was coming off an impressive three game winning streak without Sanders where they beat teams straight-up better than Harvard in more hostile environments. I get that games like this against Boston-area programs are like the NCAA Title Game for a program like Harvard, but still don’t think this is an excuse for dropping to Harvard two years running.
I would be more forgiving of this loss and be pleading for fan patience like you if this was an isolated incident. But this seems to be a chronic condition for the Eagles. Over the last nine seasons, BC has dropped early non-conference games to Harvard (x2), Robert Morris, Vermont, Duquesne, Kent State and Northeastern at an alarming clip of about 1 a season. I realize we are seeing major conference programs get snake-bitten more and more in the early season (Wisconsin Green Bay just took down Wisconsin in OT last night), but among the more successful major conference teams, you don’t expect this to happen. If you do, you certainly don’t expect this to happen at the rate of once a season.
I’m not asking for a trip to the Sweet 16 every season, but I don’t think it is unrealistic for fans to expect this program to take care of the little guys in the early season on a consistent basis. Especially locally area teams where bragging rights are at stake. BC plays in the best college basketball conference in the country and has every resource at their disposal. I, for one, don’t blame fans for jumping off the deep end after losses like this.
Jeff: I think the point that I wanted to make about excuses is that this team has more and better excuses this year than last year. Knowing that this same group of players plays best against the best (defeating North Carolina and Duke last year) and worst against teams not even sniffing the top 25, why are we surprised?
Boston College should be able to take care of the little guys, which has been the M.O. of Clemson the past few years. Start the season 20-0 and eventually not make the NCAA Tournament or lose in the first round. However, this group of players is clearly not that type. For better or worse the Eagles play better in big games. Period. Which would you rather have - the Eagles defeating every team with an RPI of 50+ and beat no top 20 teams? Or lose to some RPI 100+ teams but also beat some top ten teams? This team is not good enough to win them all.
Brian: Again, personally as a fan, I don't think it is unrealistic to expect BC to achieve a little of A) and a little of B) - beating every team with an RPI 100+ and throwing in a few Top 25 upsets here and there. However, answering your question with the best interest of the BC basketball program in mind, I'm not sure the answer is as cut and dry. Certainly knocking off North Carolina and Duke helps put butts in seats and establishes more school interest in the program. But it may very well be the case that the negative effect on fan interest after losing to programs like Harvard and Northeastern is greater than the positive effect created when BC beats a Top 25 program later in the season.