How have your preseason predictions changed now that we’re a little more than halfway through?
Matt: I think it’s more changed since Teddy Hawkins got hurt than it has since the preseason. I expected this team to compete for an NCAA tournament bid, but once Hawkins got hurt, those expectations went down the drain. However, with the way BC has played since Hawkins’ injury, I think, if they play the way they’re capable of playing, they should be on the bubble by the end of the year. That, of course, means winning the games they should win (Wake, Syracuse, home games against VT, ND, etc.). Hopefully this improves the quality of recruits that Jim Christian looks at for the classes of 2018 and 2019.
Katie: I thought this team would take a step forward, but I’ve still been impressed overall with way the first half of the season has gone. They didn’t drop any “should-win” games against mid-major teams and at least gave themselves a shot to win in every ACC game until they ran into the Tar Heels. I think I predicted 5 or 6 ACC wins, but now I’m hoping for a few more. I’m not going to get my hopes up too high for an NCAA bid, but the fact that it’s even in our conversation halfway through the season is pretty fun.
Toppin: I think I predicted a run in the NIT and believe it or not, despite the loss of Teddy Hawkins, I think that seems very realistic. An NCAA berth would require a lot of breaks to go the Eagles’ way over the next few months and a crazy upset or two (but we already have one!). They might, as Matt suggests, end up on the bubble. If they do, I’d expect them to be looking in.
What’s the biggest surprise of the season so far? Biggest disappointment?
Matt: I’ve been quite surprised with the vast improvement of Jordan Chatman. If Hawkins were healthy, the Eagles would have a true four-headed monster of Ky Bowman, Jerome Robinson, Chatman, and Hawkins. However, the backcourt has been so good and Bowman and Robinson have done fantastic jobs of penetrating the defense and getting open looks for their dead-eye shooter. The biggest disappointment has been the injury to Hawkins, which leads to the lack of depth which has been BC’s biggest detriment this season.
Katie: I’ve been really pleased with the way Steffon Mitchell was able to step up and take on huge minutes when Hawkins went down. We’d heard about him being a good defender, but I didn’t know if he’d be ready to step up a a starter so soon. He has shown maturity and poise and usually makes good in-game decisions. His defense and rebounding have been so valuable to the team so far. The Hawkins injury was really disappointing but has almost turned into a pleasant surprise with how well they’ve been able to play without him.
Toppin: I think I’ve been most impressed with the way Jordan Chatman has looked. He’s always had a pretty jumper but he’s clearly worked hard to be a much better on-the-ball player. He’s not Ky Bowman but he’s shown good ability to drive and hit some pretty tough shots in the lane and I’d be lying if I said I thought he could do that, especially against the ACC. Hawkins’ injury has been pretty disappointing, but since the other two already said that I’ll say the bigs. They haven’t taken the steps forward we want them to see for BC to have a chance against the bigger and more athletic teams. It was glaringly exposed against UNC in Chapel Hill and the trend will probably continue.
Who is your midseason MVP?
Matt: Despite Chatman’s vast improvements, I would argue that Steffon Mitchell has been the Eagles’ most valuable player. Yes, Bowman and Robinson are the two best players on the roster and the guys that win them games, but Mitchell is the guy that gives them the opportunity to win those games. His defense and versatility has been extraordinary, especially in the upset win over then #1 Duke and Marvin Bagley III. Mitchell was the first defender all year to give Bagley trouble, holding him to 15 points en route to the court storming. In other games, Mitchell has been the Eagles’ best shot blocker, rebounder, and all around glue guys. If Jim Christian can continue to bring top flight ACC talent like Bowman and Robinson to the Heights, it will be guys like Mitchell that help those guys win games.
Katie: No surprises here. Jerome Robinson is the MVP as one guy who can take over a game for the Eagles when they need him to. I agree with Matt that Steffon Mitchell has been sort of an unsung hero for the Eagles and does a lot of things that make the team better. I think the fact that he stepped into the starting role when Teddy Hawkins went down and keep the rebounding and defense steady was really impressive.
Toppin: I’d have to say Jerome Robinson. Robinson has been huge for the Eagles all year, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot and carrying the scoring load. He’s not perfect, making lapses on defense far more than I would like, but I think the offense sputters if you take him out (more so than anyone). He has the best shooting and driving combination of any of BC’s players and I think the offense is the most reliant on him performing at his best (and he has been for nearly the whole year).
Who of the non-starters will see the most minutes for the rest of the season?
Matt: Luka Kraljevic. He’s been steady off the bench, showing off a good range of offensive skills. He’s still prone to fouling a lot, but Nik Popovic hasn’t made the strides that many were hoping he would this year, and Luka can provide a spark off the bench for the Eagles.
Katie: Luka has definitely stepped up and been ready to provide some solid minutes so far this season. I like his rebounding and defense, and he’s knocked down some jump shots here and there. He seems like he has passed Reyes in the rotation, who has a really hard time staying out of foul trouble. I think Vin Baker will see some playing time as well, but his defense is still unreliable which makes him harder to give minutes to in big games.
Toppin: Luka as well. I mentioned that the other bigs haven’t looked great and JC is most likely to switch things up there. There’s not a lot of firepower to replace any of the three guards, nor to take Steffon Mitchell’s spot at the 4. Plus, Luka seems to need some more game experience to help him shake his foul trouble.
What will this team’s final record be?
Matt: Looking at the schedule, optimistically, the Eagles could finish 7-5 over their last 12 games, for a final record of 20-11, but I would expect them to go 6-6 or 5-7 and finish somewhere in the range of 18-20 wins, which should put them in the conversation for a playoff berth, which will make BC fans very happy.
Katie: I think it could be realistic for BC to win all its remaining home games except Notre Dame and pick up road wins at Pitt and one other game (maybe Syracuse or NC State). That would put them at 19-12.
Toppin: I like BC’s odds against anyone ranked below #20 (except blue bloods who can dominate the inside like UNC). With 12 games left, I can see 7 games that I’d pick the Eagles to win, but I’m also a huge homer and optimist. This would put them at 20-11. Realistically I think they drop two or three of those games but pick up one elsewhere, so 18-13 and a NIT berth.