Bad news: The offseason has arrived.
Good news: we are just a few months away from everything starting all over again - this time, a more normal season, with fans in the stands and sports happening when they’re supposed to. So it’s time to start looking ahead to the fall and to the return of Boston College athletics.
Here’s a look at our top anticipated storylines across BC athletics going in to 2021-22, ranked by our subjective #hype level.
1. Can Charlotte North and BC women’s lacrosse run it back in 2022?
The Eagles are essentially returning the entire team that won the 2021 NCAA Championship, including Tewaaraton Award winner Charlotte North.
There are four very interesting and potentially historic quests to follow when the defending champs hit the field again in the spring - Can North win back to back Tewaarton Awards? Can she break her own NCAA goal scoring record? Can BC make it to five straight Final Fours? And can they repeat?
The Eagles will be in a different position in 2022 - that of the favorites, rather than the scrappy upstarts looking to break through. How will they handle it? We can’t wait to find out.
2. Can BC football crack the 7-win barrier?
Last season was a lot of fun, with BC not only winning 5 ACC games, but also competing at a high level with teams like Clemson and Notre Dame. But the ending was a bit of a bummer, as BC’s loss to Virginia ended their chance to hit 6 ACC wins for the first time since the Jags Era. While the decision to forego a bowl appearance was understandable, it also squelched the opportunity to see the team go out with a win.
But there’s plenty of hype and excitement for the team this year, as they look to have the best set of offensive weapons since the Matt Ryan years. Can the Eagles convert that into wins, crack the 7-win barrier for the first time since 2009, or dare we ask, break into the top 25 for more than just a brief cameo?
We’re feeling the positive energy here and it seems like most fans agree; the returning talent, the continuation of the Hafley era, and the long-awaited return of fans to the Heights make this one of the most anticipated BC football seasons in years.
3. Can Jeff Hafley’s 2022 recruiting class stay among the nation’s elite?
247Sports currently ranks BC’s 2022 recruiting class as 16th in the nation, which would represent quite the climb from 2021’s 37th-ranked class - and an even bigger jump from 2020’s #62 ranking. The Spaz & Daz classes were consistently ranked in the 60-70 range; the last time BC was in 247Sports’ top 40 was 2011.
The recruiting rankings aren’t everything, but those rankings have frankly been a pretty good predictor of where BC has landed in the football landscape. Jeff Hafley has brought a new energy to the program that was apparent on the field even without his own recruits; if he can bring in top talent, it could be the start of a great run on the Heights.
4. What will gritty and not pretty look like in person for BC men’s basketball?
We finally have a new basketball coach! That’s exciting and generally something to look forward to as a fan - but the excitement is tempered by the fact that BC seems to have maybe 3 players left on the roster, and Earl Grant comes in as a relative unknown, with many BC fans feeling ambivalent about the hire.
The first year probably won’t tell us too much about what the program’s ceiling is, but it should give some insights into Grant’s system and whether things are moving in the right direction. So that should give folks a reason to tune in to BC men’s basketball, which has been sadly pretty rare in recent years.
5. In field hockey’s first real season since their Final Four appearance, can they continue on the “lacrosse” path toward being a contender?
In the fall of 2019 (1,332 years ago), BC field hockey qualified for its first Final Four. Like Lacrosse’s appearance in 2017, the Eagles played the role of ‘happy to be there’ despite bowing out - they were the scrappy underdogs.
2020 was set to give us some insight into whether this was a one-off or if the program was on a trajectory toward being a national power, but it’s hard to draw too many conclusions from a season that was COVID-delayed, with just 3 games played in the fall and then a hastily-assembled spring season.
BC struggled in the fall season, going 0-3, but looked like the team they expected to be in the spring, going 9-2, with a win over #2 Louisville, additional ACC wins against Duke and Syracuse, and a tight 1-0 loss to #14 UVA on the road.
If they take their spring form into the ‘proper’ 2021 season, they should be back in tournament contention.
6. Can women’s hockey climb back to national contender status?
After a long run of being a Frozen Four fixture, the 2020 Eagles missed the NCAA tournament. The 2021 team made it back into the NCAAs but were quickly knocked out by Ohio State.
With an intriguing mix of returning players and much-ballyhooed freshmen, can this year’s BC team get back into contender status? Can they compete with NU for a Hockey East title or dare we say work toward that elusive national title? They should certainly be one of the top contenders on campus for hardware this coming season.
7. Will women’s basketball look more like 2020 or 2021?
The 2020 women’s basketball team was potentially robbed of an NCAA tournament appearance by COVID. Unfortunately, the followup act wasn’t what anyone hoped for, with BC going 7-12.
Given the oddities of the 2020-21 season, there’s hope that last year proves to be a fluke and 2019-20 is more reflective of the program being built at BC.
8. Can a revamped men’s hockey roster compete for trophies?
After a season that included many weeks of being in the national top 2, but ended in disappointment, BC men’s hockey lost their entire first line and then proceeded to retool the roster. This year’s team is bigger, older, and more experienced with the addition of some transfers and older freshmen, but lacks the clear star power up front of recent editions. Can Jerry’s retooled team compete for trophies in a more ‘normal’ season that will feature the return of the Beanpot, a regular season title not determined by a mysterious formula, and a conference tournament that returns to TD Garden?
9. Women’s hockey Olympians go for another gold
We don’t know yet which Boston College current players and alumni will compete in the 2022 Olympics, but it’s a safe bet that at least a few alumni and one or more current players will be on the US national team and will look to defend their gold medal. Watching the team go through its training camp and warmup games leading up to the big show should be one of the more interesting BC storylines this winter.
10. Is Bob Thompson building another perennial NCAA tournament contender in men’s soccer?
Ed Kelly’s long run as BC men’s soccer coach ended with his retirement after the 2018 season. Former BC athlete and New England Revolution player Bob Thompson, who was Kelly’s associate, took the reins in 2019 and immediately took the team to the NCAA tournament.
The 2020 season was punted to the spring of 2021, and BC only got in 6 games against a brutal schedule. They went 2-3-1, but had three games against top 10 teams, and went toe-to-toe with #1 Clemson, yielding a late goal in a 3-2 loss.
If BC performs at around that level in 2021, they will probably make the tournament (even being a ~.500 team is often enough in the insanely stacked ACC). So that’s something to keep an eye on.