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ACC Basketball Preview #14 - Boston College

Jim Christian has a tough situation at B.C. Fortunately, the challenge seems to excite him.

Rebuilding is easier when you have a potential NBA player on your roster like B.C.'s Olivier Hanlan.
Rebuilding is easier when you have a potential NBA player on your roster like B.C.'s Olivier Hanlan.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Out of all the expansion schools, B.C. has probably been the worst fit for the ACC.

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It's probably worked out well financially for B.C. - the Big East was unstable and the ACC is pulling in some serious revenue, plus it's the dominant conference for the biggest part of the U.S. population, which lives along the East Coast, but still. Every so often, B.C. must feel just lost way up in New England, isolated. There is still some bad blood between B.C. and UConn, but it wouldn't surprise us if at some point B.C. pushed to bring UConn in, if only to have a regional rival.

Being in a football conference is bound to be a plus for them though, and at least the Eagles have some history with Syracuse, but we suspect that that rivalry is much like the rumored rivalry between Duke and Maryland, which was really a Terrapin obsession. There were years we literally couldn't give tickets away for a Maryland game.

After last season's disastrous turn (8-24 is pretty much a disaster), B.C. fired Steve Donahue.

We were sorry to see him go. We saw his Cornell team at Duke and it was legit. That was a fine team. We thought he'd get it done there.

He didn't though, so now the job goes to Jim Christian.

So who is this guy?

He's had three gigs prior to B.C., and in college he played for John Kuester for two seasons at Boston University and then his final two for Tom Penders after transferring to Rhode Island.

In high school he played for Ralph Willard. He's coached for or with Tom Crean, Thad Motta, Sean Miller, Charlie Coles and Stan Heath.

As a head coach, he was very good at Kent State, winning nearly 70% of his games and going to the post-season five out of six seasons (four NIT trips followed by two NCAA appearances, losing in the first round each time).

Going to TCU was a headscratcher; other than Billy Tubbs, everyone who has coached there has struggled. And after three really good years, even Tubbs started to slide.

Christian predictably struggled at TCU, a school with a Texas football mentality.  Basketball is not a big deal there.

He only had one winning season there, his last, finishing 18-15.

Interesting trivia: his predecessor, Neil Dougherty, played for two years at West Point under Mike Krzyzewski and was an assistant for Roy Williams at Kansas.

Sad trivia: the man went for a jog and never came back. His body was found a few days later.

Ohio was a much more rewarding experience for Christian. He took over for John Groce when he left for Illinois and won 49 games in two seasons, almost as many as he won in four at TCU.

So what about Christian at B.C.? It's a good name to have at a Catholic school, not that it'll keep him from getting fired if his team sucks for several more years.

His best move may have been when he told his seniors that he wants them to enjoy their final year. A lot of coaches would see them as dead weight, players to endure until the new guys are in place.

It's both decent and smart because he's more likely to get the most out of them.

Remember the huge class Donahue signed? Was it 10 guys?

Several are still left - KC Caudill, Lonnie Jackson, Eddie Odio and Patrick Heckmann among them.

None of them really turned out that well, at least so far, which is pretty much why Donahue is gone.

Jackson has had his moments, as has Odio, who we'd like to see do well just because he has a cool name.

Neither has been consistently good though.

Heckmann was supposed to be a very solid player but he's been a spot player on bad teams, really.

As for Caudill, the book on him early was he was too heavy at about 260. Now he's listed at 300.

Don't look for too much from Caudill this year.

B.C.'s best player, and it's not even close, is junior Olivier Hanlan. He could've come out last year but wisely returned. He averaged 18.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg and 2.9 apg.

Not the case for Ryan Anderson or Joe Rahon, who left for Arizona and St. Mary's respectively.

That takes a lot out: Anderson averaged 18.5 ppg and 7.3 rpg. Rahon averaged 9 ppg, 3.4 rpg and 3.2 apg.

Jackson managed 7.0 ppg, Heckman six and Odio four.

Juniors Dennis Clifford (7-1) and Steve Perpiglia (5-10) also are back. Clifford is a guy who was highly regarded but knee injuries have really ravaged his career. He's basically been a non-factor for two years. If he is healthy and reasonably sound, he'll be a major asset for B.C.

Perpiglia only played in two ACC games last year. When your team is 8-24 and you still don't get time, realistically, you're not very good.

Sophomores Will Magarty (6-11/240), Sam Donahue (6-1) and Garland Owens (6-5) return. Donahue didn't do much last season but with a new regime you never know. Magarty, a Swede, could become a reasonable post player. The best sophomore though was probably Owens, who played in 30 games and started four.

Only two freshmen join the team this year. The Eagles bring in 6-11 Idy Diallo from L.A. He averaged 10.6 ppg, 8.6 boards and 2.4 blocks.

And Darryl Hicks is actually a redshirt freshman who sat out last season with an ACL injury. He's a 6-2 guard out of Louisville. He was a finalist for Mr. Kentucky basketball.

Christian also will have 6-5 grad student transfer Aaron Brown (Southern Miss via Temple), who averaged just under 10 ppg.

And Dmitri Batten (6-3) is another grad student from ODU who put up almost the same points per game as did Brown.

So there are some potential players for Christian to work with, but the first thing he's going to have to work on is defense. B.C. was wretched on defense last season.

B.C.'s schedule is also what you'd expect from a new coach rebuilding: not very challenging, although there are some interesting opponents.

New Hampshire, UMass, New Mexico (coached by former Georgia Tech guard Craig Neal), Marist, Providence, Maine, Binghamton, USC, UMass Lowell and Harvard.

For ACC home games - probably B.C.'s best shot - the Eagles will get Pitt, UVa, Louisville, UNC, Syracuse, Miami, Notre Dame, State and Wake Forest.

Christian told the Boston Globe that going to TCU was a mistake and that he tried for quick fixes there. He won't be doing that at B.C.

Christian is promising a fast-paced style for BC, and he's clearly given the team new energy. The players seem to be buying in, so it's possible that we might see a faster turnaround than anyone expects - although a turnaround from 8-24 might be .500 ball.

But after last year, we imagine everyone would be pleased to break even.

We didn't know a lot about Christian coming in, and like a lot of folks, we're guessing, we saw the TCU stint and figured he was not that great.

Given the nature of that job, we'd say just ignore it. Focus on his success at Kent State and Ohio, where he was really solid.

At both schools he inherited winning programs and that obviously won't be the case at B.C. But there is some talent, some size, and a positive beginning. And he's excited about competing in the ACC.

Given where B.C. was last year, it's hard to ask for much more. We think he'll be solid, but the record may not reflect it for a year or two.