Now that we know Boston College men's basketball's 30 opponents for the 2014-15 season, we can start to ask ourselves some questions about the season. Today's question: what will make for a successful season?
Expectations will be predictably low for a program that is coming off an eight-win season; one that loses two of its top three scorers. Luckily the schedule sets up nicely to pile up some wins and begin the rebuilding process under Jim Christian.
We don't yet know what the Eagles draw is for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but we can take a look at the rest of the non-conference schedule. Programs like Marist, UMass-Lowell, New Hampshire, Binghamton and Maine are on this year's schedule for a reason. Marist is the only one of those programs to finish under 300 in the final kenpom rankings, coming in at 201 (For reference, BC finished the year at #138). The other four -- UMass-Lowell (325), New Hampshire (329), Binghamton (333) and Maine (338) are scheduled wins. Anything less than 5-0 here should more or less be considered a failure.
From there, I'd lean towards putting USC in the "should win" category. While the Trojans cruised to a 78-62 victory last season in Los Angeles, USC limped to a 2-16 finish in Pac-12 play. Even without Anderson and Rahon, a change in coaching and venue should help BC out a great deal this season. The remaining three games -- Harvard, Providence and vs. Massachusetts at the Garden -- are all winnable, though I'd be surprised if BC wins more than a game here. 2-2 is gravy with 1-3 seemingly a more likely outcome. Having three of these four games at home -- with the fourth at the Garden -- certainly helps.
While we don't know BC's draw in San Juan, unless the Eagles draw two of A&M / George Mason / Charleston, a 1-2 weekend should probably be deemed a success. While BC lost a one-possession game to UConn last season, I'd be surprised to see the Eagles spring the upset over the Huskies. Wins over New Mexico and Dayton seem just as unlikely. I don't really know what to make of West Virginia but gut reaction puts that game in the slight loss category, too.
That puts the Eagles at a record of 7-5 heading into conference play ...
I really don't know what to expect from this team, but I do know that expectations for ACC play will be extremely low for the Eagles. The ACC schedule does them no favors. You could make the case that BC is well behind every other conference program not named Virginia Tech. *Maybe* they were even with Wake Forest and Notre Dame, but BC loses the most production of the three next season. Of that group of four teams, BC draws just one of them -- Notre Dame -- twice. The Eagles get two against Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two of the better teams in the league, to go along with what should be an improved Miami team.
Boston College will still win a few games, but it's hard to predict which ones in July. The Eagles do benefit from facing perhaps some of the best teams on the schedule -- Louisville, Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and North Carolina -- all at home, though all of those games are in the "definite loss" category at this point. Road games at Duke, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, as well as Florida State and Clemson, are probably losses too. BC's best chances to pick up a few conference wins will likely come against teams that finished in the bottom half of the league last year -- home games against N.C. State, Miami, Notre Dame and Wake Forest and road games at Miami, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Win a majority of those game and pull off 1-2 WTF upset specials from the top group, and that gets the Eagles to 6-12 or 7-11 in conference play.
At this point in the rebuild, 13-17 or 14-16 would probably be declared a victory. That's a year-over-year improvement of 5-6 wins overall and 2-3 in conference play. Even though much of that improvement can be traced back to the watering down of the non-conference schedule -- the Lowell / UNH / Binghamton / Maine quadfecta is appreciably worse than any non-conference opponent from last year's scheduling debacle -- I still think we'd consider it a success. Anything more than that and Jim Christian will become a popular man on the Heights. Short of this, though, it would probably feel like another wasted season.
Maybe I'm setting the bar a tad bit low here, but thinking back to where this program finished in two of the last three years under Donahue, success will probably come in smaller increments in year 1 under Jim Christian than it did in Donahue's first season. Unlike Donahue, Christian isn't inheriting a senior-laden roster expected to make much noise next season.