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Boston College Basketball: Evaluating the First Half

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The Boston College Eagles completed the first half of their season Wednesday afternoon with a 72-67 over the New Hampshire Wildcats. Before the Eagles dive into the second half of the season, we look back and evaluate the Eagles' performance.

1. What are your initial thoughts on the first half of the year?

(ed. note: apologies in advance for the bad burrito puns)

John "Coach" Fidler: I think much like everyone else, this is about where I thought they would be from a record perspective. Maybe they've gotten one I didn't think they would get in the win column and they definitely lost one in UMass Lowell that I didn't think they would lose. Their non-conference schedule is pretty abysmal and they have no, what you would call quality wins. So being 7-6 at this point doesn't surprise me at all.

As far as how they got there, once again, not really surprised by much. I thought this team would struggle defensively, particularly rebounding the ball with a dearth of post players and all the youth and that reared its ugly head yet again today against UNH.

Offensively, there have been some flashes, but mostly it's been Eli Carter, a drop off to Jerome Robinson and then hit or miss everywhere else. BC has scored over 70 points in a game only four times so far this season against less than stellar competition. The only stat that stands out as a positive is turnovers, where there was a thought they would be turnover prone, but have done a good job in general taking care of the ball.

Eric Hoffses: For the most part the team is where I thought it would be. The loss to Santa Clara was very disappointing and the loss to UMass-Lowell was still a tough burrito to swallow even though half the team had food poisoning. On the flip side the win over Fordham was a pleasant surprise and the win over Harvard wasn’t a lock either. Other than that though the team has pretty much won the games I thought it would win and lost the games I thought it would.

Dan Rubin: Honestly, this team is exactly who we thought they were. They handled teams like St. Francis and Harvard, Delaware and Fordham—teams that an ACC team should be beating without a second thought. There's the loss to UMass-Lowell, but we're finding out that had more to do with a bad case of carnitas than talent. And I think we can overlook the trip to California as a case of this team not having an identity and getting caught against teams who were in better spots than they were. So I don't think this team is wowing us, but at the same time, they're not causing us to panic about how much they've fallen. I think we'll learn more about them once ACC play gets going.

Arthur Bailin: I think that, despite the youth of this team, they didn't play up to expectations. Let's throw away the UMass Lowell game, as, while I did not contract the norovirus because Chipotle is the most overrated restaurant known to mankind (come at me Chipotle lovers), I have heard stories about how bad it was, and I couldn't possibly hold the Eagles to an elevated standard in that game. However, the Santa Clara game was simply inexcusable.

With that said, there were some solid components to take away. Jerome Robinson looks a bonafide scorer that is only getting better. A.J. Turner appears to be getting in a grove. And hey, Idy Diallo isn't taking a foul every two minutes any more! (not really an exaggeration)

Overall, I'd say, based on expectations, the team gets a B-. There are some parts where the Eagles fell short, but the expectation of some growing pains, I can't be too disappointed.

2. What was the brightest part of the Eagles' first half? What needs the most improvement?

JF: From a win perspective, I suppose it's the Fordham game, but that team was picked to finish last in the A10 and hadn't really beaten anyone save St John's all season. The Delaware game was probably their next best win, but they almost backed into that one.

From a development standpoint, no question it has been the play of Jerome Robinson, who looks to be a steal for the Eagles and has shown the ability to play the point, which BC was clearly lacking heading into the season.

Hoffses: In terms of team wins I think the win over Fordham was the high point. If you want to go individual player it has been Jerome Robinson. Even though he wasn’t the most heralded recruit in high school, there was a lot of hype about how good he looked over the summer and in preseason camp. Robinson has lived up to the hype and more.

There are a lot of areas that need improvement with this young team but the one that is probably the quickest fix is free throw shooting. The team is shooting at a woeful 64.1% clip on the year which is in the bottom 15% in the country. BC is going to be over-matched most nights in the ACC and this is an area they simply can’t afford to be so far behind in.

New Guy: The Fordham win was probably the highlight because some of us thought they were going to lose that game. Instead, BC came out and really took it to the Rams. Fordham might've been a paper team built up by beating up a bunch of bad teams, but you have to give credit where credit's due; they won a nine point game.

As for improvements, there's few among us who deny that BC is a work in progress. But a .500 team into the break is still the worst team in the ACC. The league currently has five teams inside the Top 25, with another (Pittsburgh) who should probably be ranked. 10 teams have nine wins or more. So going 6-6 in non-conference play, especially given the teams BC has played, is borderline unacceptable for the conference. That speaks volumes to how talented the teams really are, and it shows just how hard the road is about to become.

Therefore, I think the improvement for BC is to figure out how to beat teams that are better than them. One of my favorite sports cliches is that a team "needs to learn how to win." I think the Eagles won and lost the first half based on talent. At some point, you need to be a lesser talented team that can win and steal victories. In that, you become a good team. BC still has to do that.

Arthur: I'll change things up a little bit and say the high point was the Maine game. That was about as complete a game as the Eagles have played all year. I'll also echo the Fordham win, especially given the performance of Idy Diallo. I think we saw a glimpse of Diallo could eventually become in that game. It was kind of a culmination of a growing period in the first half.

The Eagles absolutely have to be better from the stripe. 64.1% is unacceptable. It even put the team in a position to lose in critical moments.

3. How many ACC games do you expect the Eagles to win?

JF: If BC gets any more than 2 or 3 I will really be surprised. I thought one or two going in and I've seen nothing to change that opinion.

Hoffses: I could see this going a lot like the 2012-2013 season where the team gets off to a brutal start in the ACC schedule—that year they started 1-6—and finishes the season with some pop. As usual, the ACC did no favors to BC starting them off with Duke and Notre Dame at home, followed by the "Big East" road trip to Syracuse and Pitt and then nationally ranked Miami at home. A few days later the Eagles travel for a tough road game at Notre Dame. The team gets a little bit of a "breather" getting a young but talented Florida State game at home on a Tuesday night followed by a murderers row of @ UNC, @ Virginia, @Louisville and home against UNC. It would be surprising to me if BC had more than one win through that stretch.

New Guy: There are few among us who don't see some form of improvement by BC, but the ACC is going to have a brutal schedule. After going 4-14 last season in conference play, I see something similar. I would love them to bump up towards eight conference wins, but I just don't think that's going to happen. The league is too strong at the top.

Arthur: I'll say four wins is absolutely within the realm of possibility.

4. Are the Eagles ACC ready?

JF: No they aren't. I didn't think they would be and they aren't. The most worrisome thing for me here is the ability to defend inside and rebound. BC got out rebounded by 8 against UNH, while shooting 49% from the floor for the game vs UNH's 40%. There are simply more and generally easier rebounds to be had defensively and with that disparity, the margin should have been flipped. Against the ACC, this will be a catastrophe.

The lack of big bodies and the injury to Reyes just makes it all that much worse.

Offensively, they haven't been able to score a lot of points against weaker competition. While I think that part of it will come along as the season progresses, the schedule is mercilessly front loaded and a baptism by fire is a near certainty.

The coaching staff just needs to stay relentlessly positive and get through this year, because there are sure to be some ugly nights.

Hoffses: They certainly aren’t ready to go punch-for-punch with the five ranked teams in the league and aren’t well suited to handle the next tier of teams like Cuse, Pitt, FSU and NC State. I don’t think that’s it’s unrealistic to think that this team can’t beat Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Clemson at home though.

New Guy: No and that's nobody's fault. They have the raw ability kicking around, but I think they're a year or two away from refining it. Up and down the ACC are teams that have either other worldly talent or very good cohesion. BC is a step below in talent and isn't quite there in cohesion yet. Even if they have one scorer, they've had that in past years. Jim Christian's done a good job, but they're not quite there.

Arthur: Who asked this question? (Oh, that's right, I did.) No they are not ACC ready, I never thought they would be at this point. But I don't know if they hit my goal of the Jan. 20 game against Miami. We shall see.

5. What place do you anticipate BC finishing in the conference?

JF: Anything above last would be great. They have legitimate chances against Clemson and Virginia Tech and of course finding a way to steal one somewhere else along the way isn't a crazy notion, but anything better than last, I would say is a success.

Hoffses: I have BC as the 13 seed in the ACC beating out Virginia Tech and Clemson.

New Guy: A top 10 finish in the league would be a huge jump and cause for real optimism in the coming years.

Arthur: I'll take BC at the 13 spot.