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March Madness: What will it take for Boston College to go dancing next season?

It’s been too long

NCAA Basketball: Never Forget Tribute Classic-Villanova at Boston College Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball is holding the nation’s attention right now, like it does every March, as the NCAA tournament gets underway today and brackets begin to get busted. But Boston College men’s basketball fans have gone almost 15 years without seeing their team in the Big Dance. What will it take to get the Eagles back on the national stage next year and beyond?

A stronger roster

Boston College head coach Earl Grant has already made some strides in improving BC’s roster, but he needs to continue to do so if he wants to make it to the postseason next year. Not only does he need to keep star center Quinten Post on the Heights, who was BC’s best player this season, but he needs to bring in a transfer or two that can play some serious minutes at a high level. The roster is in desperate need of more scoring and playmaking. The return of injured freshman Donald Hand should help, but they need more.

Freshmen development

The leaders of this team will be 2022’s freshman class. Earl Grant pulled in an impressive group of guys in his first offseason at BC, but now it’s time to see some development. Prince Aligbe, Chas Kelley, Armani Mighty, and a healthy Donald Hand all need to start showing up big for Boston College, especially if star guard Jaeden Zackery does not rebound from his disappointing sophomore campaign. This core group of guys has a chance to come up together and make a huge jump for this team all at once, making BC a potential rocket ship if they all develop well. They each showed some flashes of potential in their first season, some more than others, but none of them truly stood out as a potential star. Earl Grant’s early tenure at Boston College could be defined by how these players turn out.

Improved offensive scheme

Earl Grant’s intense style of defensive coaching has been a joy to watch, but it’s only half of the battle. Boston College has struggled to score baskets during his tenure, something that needs to improve if the Eagles want to make it to the postseason. BC ranked 14th of 15 ACC teams in points per game this season despite their top-5 defense in the same metric. The Eagles frequently went on scoring droughts that could last as long as 5+ minutes at times, allowing their opponents to erase deficits or pull away and give BC some losses that could be avoided with even an average offense. Coach Grant needs to bring some new energy into his offensive gameplan in order to start competing with the conference’s best squads. Even without many great shooters on the team, the offense should not look this inept.

An improved ACC

One thing out of BC’s control is the strength of their conference. After being a college basketball powerhouse for decades, the ACC has taken a recent tumble. While this may be good in the short term for Boston College to get some wins and build up their program, it does not help their pursuit of making the NCAA tournament. The ACC sent just 5 teams to the Big Dance this year, down from 9 bids as recently as 2018 and the lowest number of ACC bids since 2013. If this trend continues and the conference isn’t able to keep up with the rest of college basketball, it becomes very difficult for BC to make it as an at-large bid, even if they do well in their conference. They’ll need a healthy balance of good teams in the ACC so that their strength-of-schedule can stand up against the rest of the NCAA.

So, what would this team look like?

The worst ACC team to make it to March Madness this season was NC State. They finished 6th in the conference with a 12-8 ACC record and with out-of-conference wins over Dayton, Butler, Furman, and Vanderbilt, plus a 6-point loss to national powerhouse Kansas. BC needs to put together a season that looks something like that:

  • 12+ ACC wins, including some ranked wins
  • A few solid out-of-conference wins
  • A respectable showing (or win) against a great team

Even if they achieve that, a tournament bid is not guaranteed. Clemson this season had a 14-6 ACC record with wins over Iowa and Penn State. But a bunch of bad losses to teams like Louisville, Loyola Chicago, and South Carolina tanked their NCAA tournament hopes. BC needs a strong resume without many mistakes.

Can they get there? Probably not next year. But they feel as close as they’ve been since at least 2018, if not longer. You never know when a big jump could be coming.