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Assessing Men’s Basketball: The Story So Far

What is to be said about the Eagles this season?

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Boston College Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Assessing Boston College’s season so is a little bit tricky, given the small sample size. There is, I must say, a fair amount of good. The team is 3-1 with a conference win on the opening weekend of the season. Derryck Thornton looks like the five star recruit he should have been the whole time and has fit perfectly into the Jim Christian system. The freshmen quad of Jay Heath, CJ Felder, Julian Rishwain, and Kamari Williams have all contributed meaningful minutes and look to be ACC level players in the years to come. Nik Popovic has continued his trend of improving year-to-year and now looks to be a force for the Eagles. And, most surprising of all, for 3.5 games the defense has been very, very impressive; the team has come out with a level of defensive energy, communication, and coordination unseen in the Jim Christian era. Like... really. They are forcing turnovers on nearly 14 of opponent possessions and holding opponents to 42% from two an 35% from three, culminating in a 46% EFG%. That’s not elite but it’s a significant improvement

Not everything is positive: the entirety of last years’ recruiting class is injured. Steffon Mitchell is so close to having something of an offensive game, but he’s still not there (I was very encouraged by his aggressiveness against Belmont, but he still seems unsure of his strength). And everything so far has also been with the caveat that the games have been against, generally, below average competition. South Florida and High point are not good teams. Wake Forest is an ACC team and that’s about the nicest thing I can say. When the Eagles finally played a good team, they buckled under an onslaught of Belmont 3-pointers and the issues that plagued BC under JC defensively reappeared. It will not surprise me that when momentum goes against the Eagles and they revert back to their old ways (chiefly open shooters left from over helping/lack of communication). Old habits die hard.

But guess what! The Eagles are 3-1, which is better than I would have expected. That last ½ game doesn’t mean the end of the world. They competed with a tournament team that is quite literally built to exploit their historical weakness against 3-point shooters. Belmont will be in the Big Dance when they probably win their conference tournament; and if they don’t, they are good enough to get an at large bid. In the meantime the Eagles will continue to work out some of the glitches, get the new guys up to speed, and likely beat a few teams they shouldn’t this year. The top two players by minutes played are both new, as are the first two off the bench. I am more excited for this team than I thought I would be, and you should be too.

So I guess I would say my feelings for us fans are this: we don’t need to be super patient with Jim Christian. We’ve been plenty patient. I understand and agree with many of his critics. But please remember that we are barely 10% of our way through the season, and calling for his firing in game four or five adds little to the conversation.

But we do need be patient with the team and realize some cautious optimism. They haven’t proven everything, but they’ve shown enough for you and me to buy in, at least for now. And given the expectations I had, that as that this was neither a tournament team nor an NIT team, I can’t complain.

This is the first of what will probably be many posts throughout the season: I’ll probably give my thoughts a lot throughout the season, and they will try to be balanced but I’m only human. Please keep that in mind.