In post-game press conferences it is impossible to miss Earl Grant’s energy, his passion, and his intensity. When you ask him a question he looks at you directly and hardly breaks eye contact.
Even when the Eagles were dominating the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame late in the second half last week, Grant could still be seen animatedly directing his team, at one point even demonstrating a better defensive stance during a lull in the action. After that victory, Grant harped on the work that was yet to be done, how far the team has to go, and how he was excited that the Eagles had a full week of practice coming up to continue to get better.
I wish every fan had a chance to sit down in a post-game press conference with Coach Grant because I guarantee you that every fan would walk out of that press-conference with a newfound passion and hope for the BC men’s basketball program.
Part of that is because the bar has not been set high for BC men’s basketball in the recent past. But this team feels more confident, more focused and more energized than past squads. It really does look like the players have bought whatever Earl Grant is selling. Past BC teams, let’s face it, were more talented on paper than this year’s BC squad. However, there were times where they struggled and seemed to play down to their opponent. This team is playing with a different energy but the change can be seen in their execution as well: the athletes are playing sound, fundamental basketball. It’s not flashy and doesn’t produce a great deal of SC Top 10 plays (in fact the Eagles are in the bottom 30 in the nation in terms of tempo per ESPN) but the Eagles play excellent defense, rebound well, and are much improved in regards to turnovers.
All this is great, and Earl Grant is off to a strong start but aside from South Florida and now Notre Dame, BC has not really beat anyone of significance and all the major tests are still ahead of them. Can this more methodical style of play help BC beat some of the better teams in the ACC? It doesn’t seem likely right now and this still isn’t a top ACC roster. From what I’ve seen on the court, BC could steal a game or two in the ACC but I just don’t know if they have the roster to push for a winning record in the conference. There is talent on this roster, like DeMarr Langford Jr., TJ Bickerstaff, James Karnik, or Quinten Post. I’m just not quite sure BC has the depth. Furthermore, with all this talk of the vibe of the team being different, it has to be acknowledge that it is really easy for a team to look good when they are 6-3 due in part to beating Dartmouth, Holy Cross, Columbia, and Fairfield. What happens when BC loses 2 or 3 in a row, or more? What if they start losing by 20 or 30? How does the team respond? Do they stick to their fundamentals? Do they put forth the same effort on the boards and on defense? BC has two more gimmie-games before they face Wake Forest, FSU, and UNC at the end of December. That three game stretch will tell us how much BC has improved under Earl Grant.
The good news is that Earl Grant knows that those questions are yet to be answered. He knows that the Eagles have hardly started climbing “out of the valley,” as he likes to say. Whether BC wins another ACC game or not, this season has already been an improvement over past seasons. It’s hard for me to justify it with cold hard facts, stats, or big wins but I encourage BC fans to come to a home game and tell me this team doesn’t look better in both play on the court and in attitude. It is a situation of my head telling me one thing but my gut telling me another: head is telling me that they haven’t done anything yet but my gut is telling me they will. The light is dim but it is there and for now I think Earl Grant is on his way to rebuilding this program successfully.