The Boston College men’s basketball season is right around the corner, and there’s a lot to weigh in on? Is it Jim Christian’s last season? Or can he patchwork something together with graduate transfers and freshman? Let’s dive in!
1) How do you feel going into the season?
Rich: Kind of apathetic, and not at all proud of it. The dismissal of Al Skinner gave way to a frustrating decade, and that frustration has eroded into indifference. Sure, there were a few big upsets and exciting individual talents sprinkled in, but it’s been 10 seasons without an NCAA Tournament appearance, which is the 4th longest active NCAA drought for a power five school.
Toppin: I’m at the stage where I have no expectations and am aware of it, so really the team is playing with house money. Rich is probably right when he calls it indifference, but I’m a little more hopeful than that. I do think there’s some serious incoming talent and that we might finally have some semblance of a bench, but I don’t think there’s enough developed talent to be thinking about postseason play.
Peter: Like some of the more recent BC Basketball seasons, I think this one is lining up to be another enigma. Looking at the roster, I can see that there is a lot of potential in our starters and we have started to see some upside in the younger class (i.e. Chris Herren and Jairus Hamilton). The question that remains, who is going to step up this season now that Ky Bowman has found a spot in the NBA? Only time will tell, but similar to Rich I remain rather apathetic.
Will: Interested. I think most people have about the same expectations for this team as far as wins and losses, and I believe we all think Popovic will be the best Eagle on the court. Other than that I don’t think they’re are a lot of known quantities on this team. Tabbs’ injury has set the stage for someone else to have a breakout season and I’m not sure there is a clear favorite. I’d feel better about the season if there was another upperclassmen that the team could lean on outside of Popovic.
2) What do you think the record to end the year is? And is it enough to qualify for the NCAA Tournament or NIT?
Rich: 14-17, again. Not even close.
Toppin: 14-17 seems right, plus or minus two wins. If the freshman come in on fire, maybe the Eagles sneak into the NIT.
Peter: 13-18. I have an inkling that this is not going to be our year.
Will: 15-16. I feel like BC always wins at least one game they had absolutely no right in winning. NIT? No, I don’t think the Eagles will have enough quality wins.
3) What needs to happen for Boston College to be playing in the postseason?
Rich: With Tabbs on the shelf and Bowman gone, I can’t imagine a scenario in which this team posts a better record than last season.
Toppin: In terms of production, the freshman would need to play like sophomores or juniors (Jay Heath in Particular), Derryck Thornton would need to show that his production the last few years (or lack thereof) has been a scheme problem, and Jairus Hamilton/Steffon Mitchell would need to take serious steps forward on offense.
Peter: We need to see some solid minutes from the upper-classman. Nik Popovic is going to have to be the leader on this team and show that every single night while staying out of foul trouble which has been his Achilles heel in seasons prior. Not to mention we need to see what our new recruits are capable of on day one. They are going to be thrown into the fire early, it’s a matter of if they are capable of navigating through the flames to show their potential in one of the toughest conferences in the country.
Will: A few ACC teams need to take a step back. The ACC is one of the toughest conferences in the country and BC will need a few big conference wins to have a chance at the postseason. Right now, I’m not seeing a lot of weak conference opponents.
4) Who’s in your starting lineup to start the year? Will that lineup change at all over the course of the season?
Rich: Nik Popovic, Steffon Mitchell, Jairus Hamilton, Chris Herren Jr., Derryck Thornton
With a bunch of new faces, I think it could take some time to figure out a starting five that clicks. Perhaps a freshman will emerge as an immediate contributor.
Toppin: Pop, Mitchell, Jairus, Jared, and Thornton. I think they’ll move the freshmen into the rotation very quickly (and I think Jared will get replaced by Heath soon into the non-conference slate).
Peter: Pop, Mitchell, Jairus Hamilton, Chris Herren Jr., Thorton. I do expect Coach Christian to play around with the starting five quite frequently this year given all of the new faces.
Will: Popovic, Steffon Mitchell, Jairus Hamilton, Jay Heath and Derryck Thornton. Heath might be more promising offensively than a guy like Jared. If Thornton starts which is most likely, they’ll somebody for him to feed the ball to.
5) Who’s the on-court MVP this year?
Rich: I’ll go with Popovic. It feels like he’s been around forever, and he seems to get stronger and smoother in the paint each year. Popovic was one of four Eagles to average double figures last season, and the other three are gone, so he’ll have to shoulder a heavy load.
Toppin: Echoing Rich again with Popovic. He’s taken a step forward every year and now that he’s one of the focal points of the offense I think it’ll click together for him. As long as he can avoid foul trouble in conference games, it’s him.
Peter: I have to agree with my colleagues that this is Popovic’s time to shine. He is by far the best player on the court with Tabbs out for the season and he has been living in Bowman’s shadow up until this point. With him most likely garnering the most minutes on the team, his effectiveness will make him the highest caliber player on the team and worthy of an MVP nomination.
Will: I really like what Steffon Mitchell can do...but he’s not a good enough scorer at the moment right now. I’ll go with Popovic as well. He can do all the things Mitchell can do but better, and he can also score. The only thing that will keep Pop off the court for major minutes are injuries and foul trouble.
6) Who’s the most improved player this year?
Rich: Jairus Hamilton showed flashes last season, and I think he takes a big step forward this year. He reminds me of a Rakim Sanders or Ryan Anderson, with a ceiling that’s just a bit higher.
Toppin: Jairus again. I keep thinking that Steffon Mitchell will finally put it all together on offense, because any semblance of threat from him would make him an All-ACC caliber player, but I was really disappointed with his regression last year. But it’s either him or Jarius for me.
Peter: I have really been liking the playing style of Chris Herren. We saw a steady uptick in his minutes last season just given his shooting consistency and ability to find open space on the floor to drain some clutch threes. I can only envision him getting better as his collegiate career continues and I predict that he is going to become a fan favorite on the Heights this season due to his offensive prowess.
Will: I’m with Toppin on this one. I think Mitchell could very well end up being the most improved but he also may have reached his ceiling. Hamilton is still growing as a player and he’ll have more opportunities to go from a guy who shows flashes to one who is a night in, night out performer.
7) What constitutes a successful season? And is that enough for Jim Christian to keep his job?
Rich: Realistically, a successful season would be a .500 record. I think if he hits that mark, Christian is back for another season. At 62-100, Christian has the worst winning percentage in program history. Personally, I think we’ve already seen enough, and it’s time to find someone who can breathe life into the program.
Toppin: I think you’re looking at the most stagnant program in the country, and unless Christian can get serious momentum behind him this year I wouldn’t bring him back. There are three parts of program building: recruiting, developing, and executing. Christian has shown that he cannot do the last one, and unless he suddenly finds a way to fix that I’m more than comfortable moving on.
Peter: One thing that BC has lacked in the past few seasons has been court chemistry. Under both the Steve Donahue and Jim Christian eras, BC has become a team that has become so heavily reliant on individual players making big plays: Oliver Hanlan, Ryan Anderson, Eli Carter, Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman to name a few. Relying on one offensive powerhouse of a player is no way to have a successful season. Having a solid lineup where everyone on the floor is contributing via ball movement, limited turnovers and stout defense is where real teams find success. If Christian cannot bridge those connections with this new team this year, you can consider him looking for a new job by season’s end.
Will: If Christian’s system doesn’t change, I don’t think his results will either. We’ve seen Christian can get his guards to play well, but this team needs more production from its bigs; aside from Popovic. Seeing how often BC relies on ball dominant guards, makes me question whether Christian can really make good use of quality big men. I don’t think BC can count on bringing in players who carry the offense solo every year or two. Echoing Peter’s point, maybe a collection of complementary players would make this team stronger than just bringing in one dominant guard. I’m not sure Coach Christian is the man who can do that.
8) What year does BC basketball get a dedicated practice facility?
Patrick: Soon, or BC basketball threatens to head to irrelevance. I think that Jarmond can get the planning/funding done in two years. Building it (and finding a place to build it) is maybe harder given the neighbors in Newton.
Peter: With all of the passion that the new AD Martin Jarmond has given to the athletic programs, I can envision this happening in the next 5 years or so. The new football facility helped tremendously in getting high-profile recruits looking at our school, so lets replicate that for our basketball program… they need all the help they can get.
Will: With the new football facility it’s clear Martin Jarmond has started to get the ball rolling and it is one step closer to getting a basketball facility. I think there’s a lot of pieces that need to be shuffled around when it comes to the layout of the campus, but I agree with Peter that it’s coming soon. I think five years is, perhaps, the earliest we can hope for a new facility. If the team’s record consistently improves over that span, maybe the timeline shortens.