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Boston College Men’s Basketball 2022-2023 Preseason Roundtable: Earl Grant, Year 2

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Wake Forest vs Boston College Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As the start of basketball season fast approaches, our writers at BCI are sharing their thoughts ahead of the new season. Let us know your thoughts and expectations for the team in the comments below!

What is your overall prediction for how the season will go?

Curtis: I’m expecting decent improvement over last year, though not exactly competing for an ACC title. They’re bringing back almost all of the players that got them to t-11th last season and then adding an impressive freshman class on top of that. A 6-14 team in the ACC last season turns into 9ish ACC wins this year I think.

Peter: I think we take a step forward this year, but we still continue to see some growing pains as to be expected. Give me a 16-17 record with 10 wins in conference play.

Arthur: I think my expectations are ones of cautious optimism. Last year’s team took advantage of a weakened ACC to, quite frankly, look as strong in conference as it has for a while. It is clear that the team could, at a bare minimum, give teams headaches when given the opportunity. I’m optimistic because now BC is returning a whole lot of players from that team, and that’s another opportunity to grow. Returning your top three scorers is huge. I think there is definitely room to grow.

Curran: I expect this year’s team to be better than last year’s, but nevertheless this could be a long season for the Eagles. The hard truth of the matter is that ACC basketball is very competitive, with 7 teams making last year’s March Madness tournament and 3 (Duke, UNC, and Miami) making deep runs. That said, I’m excited for Year 2 of the Earl Grant Era. He’s returning 4 starters and brought in some good talent, so I’m expecting improvement.

What’s the baseline for what this year’s team needs to achieve for you to consider the season a success?

Curtis: They need to at least match last year’s win total and integrate the freshman well. This program has been in the gutter for years, so my expectations aren’t too high. Earl Grant building on last year’s team is the goal.

Peter: We need to win at least half of our conference games. I cannot even remember the last time we hit that milestone as it seems like it was eons ago. If we want to hang with the best in the ACC, we have to prove that we can beat the teams in the ACC. Non-conference flops will happen, but I want to see us finish at the upper end of the conference table.

Arthur: Last year the team won six games. I’d be disappointed if they got substantively less than that. Granted, I think the league will be stronger, but Earl Grant’s guys have another year of experience under their belts.

Curran: I mentioned this before, but I need to see improvement on last year’s team. Makai Ashton-Langford is back, Quentin Post is primed to break out, and for the first time in BC history we have two incoming four-stars in Donald Hand Jr. and Prince Aligbe. I’ll also say that this team needs to demonstrate consistency. Last year’s team would have wildly inconsistent displays, often against the same team. Perhaps the best example is against Wake Forest, who beat the Eagles by 40 before BC beat them in OT in the ACC tournament.

What is going to be the most important thing for Earl Grant to work with the team on improving if they want to win a decent number of games?

Curtis: Shooting, shooting, shooting. I already trust Earl Grant 100% on the defensive end, but scoring last year was hard to come by. Jaeden Zackery improved as the year went on, but there’s got to be more contributors than just him. Brevin Galloway was not the answer.

Peter: Maturing his first recruiting class into some of the best players in the ACC.

Arthur: Breaking out of runs is a big one. There were a few league games last year where teams walked all over the Eagles’ defense and BC was helpless. I’d like them to tighten that up so there’s less of a need for massive comebacks, which, while fun, aren’t a recipe for success.

Curran: 3-point shooting. Grant gets buy-in from his players on defense, and the Eagles compete on that side of the floor. The offense, however, severely lacks weapons. Last year, Jaedan Zackery was pretty much the only consistent 3-pt threat, shooting a ridiculous 47.7% clip. Even with that average, the team as a whole shot a measly 30.9% from the 3. That’s a number that needs to go up.

What do you think will be the team’s biggest strength?

Curtis: Like I said, defense. Earl Grant has given this team an identity of hard-working, no-plays-off defense. It kept them in games they probably had no business winning last season and I expect them to do the same in 2022-23.

Peter: I think we will have a decently successful offense this year between the Langfords and rising star Jaeden Zackery. They have showcased their talents, it has just been their offensive consistency that has been problematic. I predict this year they tighten things up, take better high precentage shots and share the ball effectively.

Arthur: Last year there was a lot of youth and lack of experience playing together. It’s rare to have the level of cohesion we saw this year. Familiarity is going to pay off dividends.

Curran: I’ll go with our defense. I think that 1 through 5, the Eagles have the athleticism, twitchiness, and commitment to produce stops and turnovers. That was the strength of last year’s team, and I do not see it changing.

Who is going to be the MVP this season?

Curtis: Jaeden Zackery. I think he takes another big step this season and supplants Makai as the team’s go-to guy.

Peter: DeMarr Langford.

Arthur: Ashton-Langford seems like the obvious one to pick here.

Curran: Demarr Langford Jr. He’s taken a step forward in every year with the Eagles, and now’s his time to shine. He’s got NBA-level athleticism and build, with a silky midrange game and decent ball handling. He needs to take better care of the ball, and I’d like for him to shoot the 3-ball a little more, but I’m excited to see what he does this year. It’s clear Grant trusts him — Langford Jr. hit the dagger shot against Wake Forest.

Which player do you expect (or hope) to see the most improvement from?

Curtis: Quinten Post. BC has a big hole in the frontcourt now that James Karnik is gone. I’d like to see Post step up and become a better defensive presence inside. He struggled with it last season.

Peter: DeMarr. The man has SO much talent but you just can never bank on him having an ACC-caliber game night-in and night-out. I think this year he takes a huge step forward in his game and becomes one of the best in the conference.

Arthur: I’d like to see Jaeden Zackery have a sophomore year where he really blossoms. He was solid last year, but I’d like to see him build off that.

Curran: I think Jaedan Zackery is primed to take a step forward. He surprised a lot of people as a true freshman starter last year, and really played well in the role. He hit several clutch shots throughout the season and in the ACC tournament, played excellent defense (averaging 1.7 steals a game), and earned Grant’s trust. I think he can take that next step and take his game to the next level.

Which new player are you most excited about?

Curtis: Who to choose? So many great prospects that could blossom. I’m going to pick Prince Aligbe.

Peter: The new incomer, Prince Aligbe. Lots of hype around this kid and I cannot wait to see what he can bring to the program. He could easily become the player that gives this program the resurgence it needs.

Arthur: I honestly have no idea.

Curran: Donald Hand Jr. is a 6’5 combo guard who can transform this BC offense. What the Eagles missed so sorely last year was a guy who could just go and get a bucket at will. Hand Jr. could be that guy, and if he is BC’s offense all of a sudden is a lot more dangerous.