Welcome to my weekly basketball column, which is my soapbox for my thoughts on the men’s basketball team and the direction of the program and whatever else happens to be on my mind this week. As the season goes on it may get shorter or more repetitive, but this is my first time doing this. Cut me some slack, jack.
I (and Eric Hoffses) have long been a defender of Jim Christian for a lot of reasons. I wanted him to succeed. I think that college basketball is filled with a lot of bad dudes at coaches: used car salesmen selling kids a dream while they profit off their work and bag men working with the best of the best. Christian isn’t one of those. And with all that has come out about another head coach in the past week, that message has been hammered home. Further, Christian, unlike that other head coach people have been discussing, always took responsibility for the way his teams played. He’s an honest, good guy.
So I remained on the island with him, believing that Christian could be the guy who turned this program around. I thought that he got screwed with so much attrition in his recruiting classes early in his tenure (who could have foreseen so many transfers). I legitimately believe BC would have made the tournament in 2017-2018 had Teddy Hawkins not gone down with a season ending knee injury. And I think that the loss of Wynston Tabbs this year is more devastating than any other in college basketball. So when the team this year came out, flying around on defense and a 4-0 start, I thought, “maybe this will have a happy ending for JC and his team.”
But the Eagles are now in a free fall, and I struggle to say anything positive about the way this team is currently playing. And I, in no uncertain terms, can say that I have never been so disappointed in a basketball team or its performance.
This team has firmly ended any and all momentum it had to start the season. Part of me wants to make excuses: that DePaul team is damn good (they’re now 8-0) and BC made nearly every possession a battle in a five-point loss. The Eagles had a lead over 7-1 St. Louis, who has only lost to 16th ranked Seton Hall. Richmond is also a part of the 7-1 club, with that lone loss being to a ranked Auburn squad.
But the direction of the team is in the wrong direction. There’s no excuse for having a rebound margin of -51 over the last four games. There’s no excuse for allowing twenty point runs against your team in three of the last four games. There’s no reason that any respectable tem should lose to this Northwestern, the youngest team in the B1G. That former Eagle forward AJ Turner was on the opposing bench was but insult to injury.
I don’t know what happened to Jim Christian’s offense. I expected it to have a rocky start, simply because of the amount of new pieces coming in. I figured that would work itself out over the course of the season, even if it was a tad disjointed at the start. But the latter part hasn’t happened. Rather, this team seems to have regressed in nearly every capacity. Derryck Thornton is trying to do too much as a ball handler and Nik Popovic cannot make a shot. Jairus Hamilton’s injury issues have severely restricted his playtime, but in limited minutes he doesn’t look any more aggressive on the offensive end. Steffon Mitchell continues to make play after play on the defensive end and be the only rebounder worth a damn, but his third year without an offensive skillset means his game remains critically flawed.
And the freshmen, while clearly talented, should not be in a position where they are expected to win games on their own. All of them, I believe, will have successful college careers based solely on the flashes they have shown so far. But right now, they should be auxiliary pieces to the team, not some of the central cogs of its offense.
It all ultimately lies at Jim Christian’s feet; from in game plan, to player development, to roster management. This team isn’t playing well and has shown few signs that they can. And the situation is bad enough that if Martin Jarmond canned him tomorrow and put Spinelli in charge I would have no problem with it. Maybe it’s best for everyone that our attention is so focused on the other coaching search that we can’t pay attention to starting another one here for at least another month. But, pending a miraculous turnaround, it is probably time to say that this Jim Christian experiment has failed.
Ultimately, this team is so much more talented than the one that went winless in the ACC in 2015-2016. But that may not be enough. During that season, my inaugural one as a Boston College student and fan, I presumed that the Eagles would eventually manage to pull out a win against somebody. That’s just the way that basketball works: you get hot and somebody else has an off night. You manage scrape together enough points and defense to get a win. Teams, no matter how bad they are, do this. But that Eagles team never did, and I think a little bit of my inherent optimism died that season, because I’m not sure this team can do that either. I am only grateful that the season opened with a win over Wake Forest, because that could be all that prevents a 2015 redux.