Well, it’s finally here: another installment of the Earl Grant-era for Boston College men’s basketball.
Having followed this Eagles team for the better part of two decades, each new season brings with it a glimmer of optimism that this will be the year the team turns itself around. It is around this time that I recant the glory days of BC basketball from when I was a child and get distant flashes of my childhood heroes: Troy Bell, Jared Dudley and Craig Smith. And with each of those distant memories, I try to draw parallel to this year’s roster. Who on this team will be the one(s) to fill the voids of these Eagle legends and have their jerseys hanging in the rafters?
Over the past few seasons we have seen some strong candidates. The likes of Jerome Robinson, Olivier Hanlan, Ky Bowman and Reggie Jackson have all earned their stripes. Yet, the same challenge has remained: the inability for the Eagles to come together as one. Stark disconnects between offense and defense, mindless turnovers, one starstudded player carrying the weight of the team and, possibly the worst of all, the complete inability to hit one’s free throws...
Nonetheless, I will proceed forward in viewing this season with a Tabula Rasa type of mindset as a I do every year. I cannot help go into another year watching Earl Grant strive to mold this team into something special and I am backing up him with complete confidence. We get to see his first recruiting class hit the floor this year and there are certainly some players in this incoming class that a forecasted to make a decent splash in the conference.
Now, I’ll get off my soapbox and dive into the actual preview of tomorrow’s opening night contest against Cornell.
The Eagles will play host to Big Red on Monday night with an 8 EST tip-off. This is only the fourth time these two opponents have met and the Eagles are yet to concede a match. It has also been quite the hiatus for the two with the last time they saw each other on the hardwood dating back to 1976.
Last season, Cornell finished the year with a respectable 15-11 record and went 7-7 in the Ivy League. They earned a #4 bid to the Ivy League Tournament where they went on to lose in the first round against #1 Princeton who would eventually lose a shocker to Yale to round out the season.
As an overall team, Big Red was pretty average in their conference last year. They averaged 79.2 PPG ranking them as the second best offense in the Ivy League. However, their defense was not as as stellar as the gave up 74.7 points to all of their opponents. They loved to spread the ball as they averaged 17.3 APG but that also resulted in a lot of costly turnovers where they ranked second in the conference with 14.2 TOs per game. High risk, high reward I suppose.
More importantly for Cornell, they will now be going into slightly uncharted waters as they lost four of their starters going into this season. The lone starter for Big Red, Chris Manon, will have a lot on his plate to help reigning Ivy League Coach, Brian Earl, in shaping this new starting unit into one of the best in the conference. As with most of these situations, I would expect a lot of growing pains to come from this endeavour.
As for the Eagles, they come into this match as -12.5 favorites and with a lot of new faces that could make immediate impacts on the floor. They are also returning the top three and four of last year’s top five scorers who accounted for 71.3% of the team’s scoring from a season ago. I would assume that, given this veteranship, we should generally see a starting lineup include both Langfords, Zackery, and Post (once Langford Jr. and Post return from injuries). As for that fourth spot, I would love to see Prince Aligbe get plugged in immediately so I can finally get a glimpse into what all of the hype around this kid is about.
In looking at the game script, I expect this to be ‘feel out’ type of game for Earl Grant. It is going to be one where I would predict him to play around with his rotations and try to mesh together an early sense of chemistry to foreshadow what the rest of the season may bring. Cornell is trying to find it’s new identity this year as well but with many newer pieces to the puzzle than what BC currently has to work with.
If there was one big takeaway from last season it was that this Eagle’s team played with a lot of heart night-in and night-out. Even though they went into most of their games as underdogs, they all brought with them a since of fortitude that was not overlooked. I foresee a fun opening night for the team as they handle Cornell with relative ease and the newcomers get their first taste of a collegiate win in their young careers.
Prediction: Boston College 81 - Cornell 68