clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

ACC Preview #14 - Boston College

The Eagles landed with a thud last season. Can the program bounce back?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Boston College v North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 30: A.J. Turner #11 of the Boston College Eagles during their game at Dean Smith Center on January 30, 2016 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Boston College had two significant developments this off-season: first, about 14 of the roster transferred. And second, coach Jim Christian got an extension.

After a 7-25 season - BC hasn’t won a game since 2015 - you might not expect that. There are some variables at work though.

First is this simple reality: Boston College is in a hole that it won’t climb out of immediately. And second, for all of his woes, Jim Christian shows every sign of being a competent coach.

Obviously that’s from outside, so what do we base that on? Just this: though he hasn’t had the talent to compete in the ACC, his players played hard, often with a fair amount of intelligence, and were well-conditioned enough to run.

Obviously Daryl Hicks, Matt Milon, Idy Diallo and Sammy Barnes-Thompkins were not happy with the way things were going.

Hicks transferred to an NAIA school. Diallo transferred to UC-Riverside. Milon landed at William & Mary and Barnes-Thompkins is back home in Arizona at Odessa Junior College. Incidentally, his father died this summer, so we hope he’s doing okay.

All four, in other words, transferred down from the worst team in the ACC and possibly the worst team in the history of the ACC.

BC also lost their best player in Eli Carter, a grad transfer from Florida, and the admirable Dennis Clifford, who kept going despite repeated injuries. Last year he became a bit of a meme when he was asked what he would most remember and he said “going out to eat” with his teammates. Then he started crying.

He took a lot of guff for that but we’re pretty sure he meant he’d miss the camaraderie and that’s understandable.

Despite everything he stuck with BC, became a decent ballplayer and a guy who clearly liked and cared about his teammates. That’s not so bad.

With the six players gone, BC is, once again essentially starting over. This team has three seniors, two of whom are grad student transfers (6-6 Connor Tava and 6-9 Mo Jeffers from Western Michigan and Delaware respectively).

Garland Owens is the third senior; he’s 6-5 and has career averages of 4.8 ppg and 3.3 rpg.

Sophomore Jordan Chatman, 6-5, is also a grad student transfer.

You read that right: he finished BYU in two years. Pretty impressive.

BC also adds freshmen guards Ky Bowman (6-0) and Ty Graves (6-1) both from North Carolina, Nik Popovic, a 6-11 native of Bosnia-Herzegovina and 6-7 Mike Sagay out of Connecticut.

Johncarlos Reyes, 6-10 and 214 from Georgia, redshirted after a foot injury.

Other than Owens, the returning players are all sophomores: 6-7 Ervins Meznieks, from Latvia, 6-8 Aser Ghebremichael from nearby Somerville, MA, and Gordon Gehan, a 6-5 guard from Dallas.

Things can change and players develop, but Ghebremichael barely scratched last season. Ghehan didn’t do much more.

Owens played 21.9 mpg, but remember that was on a team that won seven games.

The best returnees, by far, are Robinson, the third North Carolinian on the roster (from Raleigh’s Broughton High) and Turner.

Robinson did well before breaking his right wrist on a dunk against Florida State. He’s good enough to become a very solid ACC player.

And while Turner has some work to do - BC’s highest rated recruit last year shot just 33.6% from the floor overall, 26% from deep and 64.3% from the line - he showed flashes. He was reluctant at times to drive, so he better get over that or start shooting well.

Like Robinson, Turner had an injury which slowed him down in ACC play - in his case an ankle sprain kept him out of five games and probably limited him some after that - but he turned in a solid high school career in Michigan which isn’t the easiest place to stand out in basketball.

That’s a reasonable foundation going forward.

Tava may help more than people think. BC had some guards last year and a decent center in Clifford, but didn’t really have a useful wing. Tava is 6-6 and he’s listed at 6-6 and a surprising 250 - that’s Barkleyesque - but he's probably going to be pretty good for BC.

He sat out last year at WMU with a broken foot which might explain the 250.

As a sophomore he averaged 11.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 2.9 apg. As a junior he pushed that to 12.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 3.3 apg.

He’s supposedly a pretty good passer too and that always helps.

Jeffers, Popovic and Reyes offer some size and depth in the post. Jeffers is the most experienced and will probably start. He got about 22-23 mpg his last two years at Delaware and while not a score (6.8 and 5.2 ppg his last two years) wasn’t an awful rebounder (4.8.his last two years) and is solid. He’s also supposedly a good passer. He could help.

Popovic is said to be a bit of a banger and another fair passer. Reportedly he’s not overly athletic.

Reyes sat out of most of last season but in high school he was a solid shot blocker. He’ll have to find a niche.

Chatman may be a real key for the Eagles. He’s not a great player but obviously he’s a guy who knows what his priorities are and is focused. He has the potential to be a real leader for BC. He also did a Mormon mission, so chronologically he’s a senior. His mission was in Taiwan incidentally.

Sagay is one of the more athletic players on the roster but like a lot of talented athletes has a lot to learn about the game.

We’re interested to see how the NC backcourt pans out. Bowman may be a bit ahead of Graves physically and could make his mark on defense early. He’s reportedly a driver.

Graves is tagged as a point guard but he can also shoot a bit.

So what are the odds that BC improves this year?

To an extent it depends on how you measure improvement. BC won just a handful of games last year against very weak competition. In ACC play, the Eagles very nearly pulled off a remarkable upset of UNC and only a Maverick Rowan buzzer-beater allowed NC State to escape an upset of its own.

Other than that, BC lost every other ACC game by double digits other than a 76-71 loss to Georgia Tech.

BC’s non-conference schedule features serious opponents like Kansas State, Harvard, Auburn and Providence. They should beat Nicholls, UMES, Stony Brook, Towson, Dartmouth, Hartford, Sacred Heart and Fairfield, which would put them one up on last season.

The ACC, alas, will be tougher than ever for BC. The Eagles get home games with Syracuse, NC State, Virginia, UNC, Wake Forest, Louisville, Pitt, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.

Road matches include Wake Forest, Duke, Syracuse, Miami, both Techs, Florida State, Notre Dame and Clemson.

We’d think that BC has a shot at Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, NC State since Mark Gottfried’s team usually start slow, and maybe Pitt.

The way to measure this team isn’t progress, though 11-12 wins are possible. The measurement should be competitiveness.

Christian is, we think, an underrated coach. He was very good at Kent State, turning in a 137-59 mark (.699). He topped that at Ohio with a 49-21 record (.700).

TCU didn’t go too well - he was 56-73 for a .434 mark - but what do you expect? It’s TCU.

And unlike new coach Jamie Dixon, who will compete in the Big 12 and get some benefits from that, Christian’s TCU was in the Mountain West Conference, which was highly unstable.

If you toss out the TCU years, which seems reasonable, Christian’s pre-BC record is 186-80, which works out to about 23 wins and eight losses per year. Think BC would be happy with a 23-8 season?

That said, it’s been a slog at BC and he’s only into his third season. Aside from needing better players, he also has to overcome fan apathy. The Eagles drew an average crowd of 3,411 last year.

One feeds the other of course. Win and people show up. When there’s excitement players want to come.

BC can recover, and we think Christian can get it done, but it won’t be easy or quick. So it’s a good thing the university gave him a show of confidence with the extension.