College basketball is just a few weeks away and our writers are dialed in. What will this year have in store for the Eagles? Check out all of our preseason hopes, dreams, and worries, and weigh in with yours in the comments!
BC’s leading scorer and ACC Player of the Year runner up Jerome Robinson has flown the nest for the LA Clippers. How does BC fill that void?
Pat: You really have to hope that Ky Bowman can step up and become “that guy.” Bowman is clearly the most talented player and he really needs to play like a top-10 College player if the Eagles want to improve. The addition of Jairus Hamilton and Wynston Tabbs can help replace some of the scoring Robinson used to provide, but ultimately it’ll come down to Ky.
Matt: I agree with Pat. Ky was all-ACC HM last year and is arguably the most dynamic guard in all of college basketball. I’ve heard that all three of the freshmen have looked very good over the summer and in the early practices, so Chris Herron and Wynston Tabbs should be able to fill the minutes that Robinson occupied last year. Jairus Hamilton should be able to provide valuable minutes at the 3 and the 4 with Steffon Mitchell to provide matchup problems with other forwards and allow the coaching staff to play around with different lineups. The most noticeable difference, however, will be an increased pressure to get defensive stops. No longer does Jim Christian have an automatic 20 point scorer on his team. The Eagles will need to dig in and get stops if they want to win games in the grueling ACC.
Katie: I think that while Bowman will take more shots this year, it isn’t on him to become the force that Robinson was last season. His game is different- he’s going to run the offense, distribute, grab rebounds, and make the rest of the team better. I think we’ll see a more evenly distributed score sheet with some contribution from the freshmen and a step forward from a few returners. When it comes to someone taking the game winning shot, however, Bowman will have to be the guy to step up.
This feels like Ky Bowman’s team now. Does he rise to the challenge or struggle without JRob in the backcourt? What does he have to do to position himself for the draft next spring?
Pat: I think he rises to the challenge. Jordan Chatman and co. should provide plenty of spacing for Bowman to slash his way to the basket, and natural progression should improve his outside game. To me, an improved 3-point percentage (36% last year) and higher assist numbers while being the focal point of the offense would send him up the draft boards.
Matt: Above all else, Ky Bowman is a competitor. It’s no coincidence that the two most memorable games in his career were home games against UNC and Duke. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and loves proving people wrong when they doubt him. I think he’ll eventually be drafted regardless because someone will take a flier on his athleticism, defense, and big-play capabilities, but to be a first-round pick next spring, he needs to cut down on turnovers.
Katie: Ky’s greatest strength- his fiery tenacity and competitive hustle, occasionally turns into his biggest weakness when he hurries ill advised shots or commits unforced turnovers. He needs to clean up those mistakes and find a way to stay poised as well as mentally tough. I do think he rises to the challenge without Jerome and takes some of the younger guys under his wing. Should be an exciting season for him.
There is more excitement around this recruiting class than any we’ve seen for a while. How will the newbies contribute this year?
Pat: I feel like Hamilton will quickly play himself into the starting five, and at 6-8 he provides great size addition that BC hasn’t had recently (and for the record, he’s the best recruit BC has gotten in over a decade, maybe ever). Tabbs will be more interesting to see if he provides Jim Christian some depth over the season (since Bowman and Chatman have the 1-2 covered). If he proves himself as an adequate ball handler against ACC opposition he could play himself into the starting five, but that remains to be seen.
Matt: Hamilton should be a day 1 starter and will be one of Jim Christian’s most valuable assets this year, especially with his versatility. Wynston Tabbs should be the team’s third guard and Chris Herron, Jr. should provide a shot maker and a decent ball-handler off the bench. My guess is Hamilton plays about 28-34 minutes per game, Tabbs plays about 20-25, and Herron plays about 5. Tabbs will see most of his minutes in three guard lineups as both Chatman and Bowman played a lot of minutes last year and that shouldn’t change this year. Hamilton and Mitchell should provide a very good frontcourt with the three guard lineup when they go with it.
Katie: I posted about the incoming class recently so I won’t dwell too long on any of them, but I am excited to see if Hamilton lives up to the hype. I also think they’re going to groom Tabbs as Bowman’s backup and I’ll be really excited if he can play some time at point as well as the 2. Bowman might end up playing out his senior year, but more than likely he’ll be gone this spring and they have a real scarcity of talent behind him right now at his position.
Which returner takes the biggest step this year?
Pat: Popovic. We saw some strides made last year and good performances in the ACC tournament, but an offseason of work should make him a legitimate force in the post.
Matt: Steff. He had a great freshman year, especially defensively and I’ve heard that his jump shot looks a lot better. I wouldn’t be surprised if he shoots around 38% on a few attempts per game. He will continue to draw opponents’ toughest frontcourt player, but it will be his offensive games where the strides will be most evident.
Katie: I would say Mitchell except he was already so solid as a freshman. That said, if he starts knocking down jumpshots, it will make a huge difference to the offense. I think instead I’m going to make a bold Vin Baker Jr. prediction. He seemed like the freshman with the most room for improvement with some practice and coaching. I’ll say Baker puts it together and becomes a contributor off the bench.
Who will be BC’s MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Rookie of the Year?
Pat: MVP: Bowman. DPOY: Mitchell. Haven’t spoken about him at all so far but he was great last year as a true freshman and maturity alone should give him more weight to complement his range. ROY: Got to think it’ll be Hamilton. He’s such a great talent and coming into a position of need for the Eagles.
Matt: I agree with Toppin. All of those just make too much sense.
Katie: This is a dumb question. Who wrote these? (I wrote these.) Same as the above.
Last year marked Jim Christian’s first winning season as head coach of the Eagles. Going into his 5th year, what are the expectations for Christian?
Pat: There’s been progress, but from a fan perspective all I want to see is a competitive season. Losing Robinson is tough but the new faces are in and the talent is there. What I really want to see is player development over results. I want to see Mitchell, Luka Kraljevic, and Popovic all improve from last year and get a feeling that Christian can not only get his guys, but coach them up as well.
Matt: He needs to keep developing guys. BC will never compete with the Dukes and the North Carolinas of the world on the recruiting front, but if he can continue to find diamonds in the rough, steal recruit like Jairus Hamilton, and allow guys to get better over their four years, he will build a deep team capable of competing in the ACC, even without joining the one-and-done movement.
Katie: I love what he’s been able to do with developing players like Robinson and Bowman, and starting to build solid recruiting classes (he already has some strong recruits for next year’s class) and that’s what he needs to continue to do with this program. I know fans are hungry for a NCAA tournament appearance, and if things go right for this team it is certainly a possibility. Despite losing Robinson, they still have an experienced group for a college team with some strong talent coming in. If they just miss being a bubble team like last year, fans will be disappointed but it won’t be an indictment of the program. He has set them up for success over the next 2-3 years.
What game are you most looking forward to and why?
Pat: Home against Minnesota; you always love to see an out of conference P5 matchup. There’s hockey history here, and my dad’s family is from Minnesota so it means a little bit more, personally.
Matt: At Texas A&M. It’s a non-conference game, on the road, against a team that made the NCAA tournament last year. I want to see BC go in, be competitive, and come away feeling like we belonged with that team, kind of the way I did after the Texas Tech game last year. There are plenty of ACC games against better teams, but Christian has already shown he can win games in conference. He’s gotta go get wins on the road against new teams if he wants to build this team into a power.
Katie: Home vs. Virginia. Remember when this team came one shot from beating Virginia on the road right after taking down Duke last year? Virginia has a lot of returning upperclassmen and could be highly ranked when they come to Chestnut Hill in early January. Feels like it could be one of those games that BC comes out fired up and pulls out an upset.
What’s your official win/loss prediction for this year’s team?
Pat: Man I have no idea. I’d want 16 or so wins, with at least 6 in conference.
Matt: Before conference play starts, there should be 8 automatic wins in Milwaukee, St. Francis, IUPUI, Wyoming, Sacred Heart, Columbia, Fairfield, and Depaul, but every non-conference game is winnable, including Providence, Texas A&M, Loyola Chicago, and Minnesota. I’d like to see about 8-9 wins in conference, with 1-2 in the ACC tournament, so maybe 20-13.
Katie: I’d love to see them at 20 wins because I think that gets them into the tournament, but I feel like they’ll be closer to 18-19. My hope is that they can have more players contribute and add to their depth. Last year’s team hit a stretch at the end of the season before the ACC tournament where they sort of ran out of gas. They’re losing a transcendent player in Robinson, but hopefully gaining some depth with returners stepping up and new talent coming in. I think that all adds up to being right around where they were last year (19 wins).
Give us your takes in the comments below, and get to Conte on Nov. 6th for the opener vs. Milwaukee!