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ACC Preview #4 - Boston College

There are grounds for optimism for this long-dormant program.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at North Carolina
Jan 26, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Boston College Eagles head coach Earl Grant signals in the second half at Dean E. Smith Center.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

There are always intriguing situations when ACC Basketball is about to get going. This year, we have several: 1) How will Duke do with Jon Scheyer as head coach? 2) How will UNC follow up on last year’s spectacular closing stretch? 3) What will see in Year II from Earl Grant’s BC?

In his first season, Grant made huge progress. The record was vastly better but that’s no major surprise. Jim Christian’s last season was the Covid Year and BC was hit as hard as anyone. He finished 3-13. That’s a whole lot of missed games due to Covid and, if memory serves, there was at least one where BC only had four scholarship players available.

As we’ve said before, everyone should get a pass on that season but Christian didn’t have a strong argument for being retained and he was not.

Grant was a surprise choice. He had a solid run at Charleston, with an overall record of 127-89. If you give him the Covid pass and take 9-10 off the record, he was 118-79.

Still, he wasn’t on the public radar when BC hired him. However, his first year suggests it was a smart hire.

BC was just 13-20, which doesn’t look great, but first, it’s a big improvement over a three-win season and second, and perhaps more importantly, Grant quickly and comprehensively changed the culture.

They had some big losses - UNC crushed them, Louisville had a solid win, Wake won by 20.

But they also three overtime losses and lost to Pitt by two. They lost to Duke but only by nine.

If a few things had changed, BC might have won 17 games. Grant taught a dispirited team how to fight again, and that’s huge.

From last year, he loses Brevin Galloway (to Clemson), Justin Vander Baan (unknown), Gianni Thompson (Mass) and Kanye Jones (UMass).

Galloway is the biggest loss, but he was eighth in minutes played, so it’s probably not disastrous.

BC returns 6-3 grad student Makai Ashton-Langford, who probably has some stories to tell, 6-9 senior TJ Bickerstaff, 7-0 senior Quinten Post, 6-6 senior Andrew Kenny, 6-0 junior Abe Atiyeh, 6-5 DeMarr Langford, 6-2 sophomore Jaeden Zackery, 6-7 Devin McGlockton and 6-3 senior Jonathan Noel

The Langford brothers are both solid contributors and Post reportedly showed progress over the summer. Zackery showed some real potential. Kenny, Atiyeh and Noel are not likely to be major factors. McGlockton is listed as a sophomore but has no stats from last yer.

Mason Madsen transfers in from Cincinnati. He’s a 6-4 junior with a 44” vertical. He didn't play a lot at Cincinnati, but we could see finding a special role for a guy with that kind of leaping ability.

CJ Penha, who transfers in from D-II Trevecca Nazarene, so he’s a complete unknown for most people. Check back this winter to see how he’s doing.

Grant has four freshmen too: 6-5 PG Chas Kelley, 6-6 Prince Aligbe, 6-5 Donald Hand Jr. and 6-10 Armani Mighty.

Kelley is a combo guard who should be an athletic upgrade and a solid defender. If Hand sounds familiar, it’s because his dad, Donald Sr., played at Virginia.

The younger Hand is a significant prospect, one of the better guys to sign with Boston College in quite some time. We don’t know who will start this year but at some point, this could be a really, really good backcourt.

Aligbe is more of a power player and should add some versatility up front. He’s going to play.

Mighty is from Jamaica originally but has lived in Canada for five years. His high school coach calls him “a high motor guy.” His defense is ahead of his offense but that’s okay for now because BC needs defense from him now. Offense would be gravy.

It’s impossible to know what to expect in August, but consider this: Grant now has Ashton-Langford, Langford, Bickerstaff, Zackery, McGlockton, Madsen, Kelly, Aligbe, Hand and Mighty for a (maybe) mighty athletic core. The other guys will help - BC will need Post, for one - but all in all, it’s a real upgrade from what Grant inherited.

This team will probably have some limitations, possibly inside scoring for one. But we’re guessing that BC has enough talent to compete defensively, and on a lot of nights, they’ll win on that end.

Things seem to be really looking up for the Eagles.