With two ACC games already played and the bulk of conference play ahead of the team, where does Boston College stand against preseason expectations? I’m going to take a look at several aspects of the Eagles team to this point in the season.
Earl Grant’s team lives by the mantra “gritty not pretty,” and nowhere is this more evident than in the Eagle’s offense. They are averaging 64.3 points per contest, which is fine, but this number is inflated by the Eagle’s relatively light non-conference schedule. Teams like Maine (who BC managed to lose to) and Detroit Mercy simply do not compare to the average ACC-level team that BC is going to be playing for the remainder of the season. In the four games against Power-5 opponents – Nebraska, Duke, Villanova and Virginia Tech – BC has averaged a tick below at 63 points, which includes overtime in the Virginia Tech game as well as garbage-time points in the blowouts against Nebraska, Duke and Villanova. The offense, simply put, must improve.
The core of the issue is that BC does not have a player – and specifically a guard – who can generate their own offense against a set defense. The closest player BC has to this is probably Makai Ashton-Langford, but he is best attacking in transition. When the defense is set, his average ball-handling skills and decision-making skills tend to hurt the offense. All three of Ashton-Langford, Langford Jr., and Zackery drive into forests of defenders or simply pass the ball around the perimeter without creating meaningful looks. The result is that BC’s offense can degenerate into settling for 3s, which really kills BC’s offense given they are only connecting at a poor 26.6% rate.
So how do they score? Well, first, the good news is that BC’s offense is not at full strength until Quinten Post returns. Many expected a breakout year from him, after being one of the top 6th-men in the ACC last year, and the height and shooting he brings to the court are both areas BC desperately needs help with. However, his absence has allowed Devin McGlockton to make a name for himself. The redshirt sophomore has been the revelation of the season for the Eagles. He’s the second best rebounder on the team, he plays with energy every night, and he is a nice scorer off the bench. Most importantly, he’s looked great in the pick and roll with Makai or JZ. In BC’s massive win against #21 Virginia Tech last night, he dropped 18 points – the majority of which came in the second half. The points can come when BC’s guards can get penetration of the dribble, allowing the court to open up for guys like McGlockton. The formula is there – BC just needs to stick to it.
Defensively, BC has been fine. They are a defensive-minded team, without question. The issue is that the defense has not been strong enough to outweigh the poor offense. Giving up 77 points to teams like Cornell, or 88 against Nebraska, simply is not good enough. At their best, BC plays like they did against VT last night – physical and aggressive, not giving up open 3-point looks, and securing defensive rebounds. It is a formula that can work, but far too often it just looks like BC takes possessions off against teams that they cannot afford to. This will improve with health – I think Prince Aligbe is one of the best pure athletes and defenders on the team, and him being healthy is huge. Post will help with the rebounding, and him being healthy just gives BC more depth.
Grant, because of a lack of bigs without Post, has had to stagger McGlockton and Bickerstaff’s minutes to ensure BC does not get blown away on the boards. With Post healthy, BC can play some combination of two of the three throughout the game. Rebounding will improve, which gives BC’s offense more possessions to score and limits the opponent’s second-chance points. I am much less concerned about the defense. They can compete.
The start of the season was poor. No way around it. Losses to Maine and UNH are inexcusable. Yet this team also just beat #21 Virginia Tech, so there is hope. Consistency is key, and moving forward, BC will have to find it if it wants to move up the ACC standings. As always, roll eags.