ACC Team Preview: Boston College EaglesPosted by Kellen Carpenter on November 1st, 2013
This is Steve Donahue’s fourth year as coach of Boston College and the question is floating through the air: Is it the year? After an abysmal sophomore season where Donahue floundered with a nearly all-freshman class, last year was a turning point for the program. Sure, the team only went 7-11 in league play and lost in the second round of the ACC Tournament, but it was still progress and the groundwork that Donahue has laid looks strong. This year, the hard work starts to pay off. Boston College is ready to make some noise… with one big catch.
In 2011-12, the freshman pair of Ryan Anderson and Lonnie Jackson gave Boston College some hope for the future. Now, as juniors, both have clear roles in the Eagles’ team system. Anderson is capable of a double-double every night while Jackson is the team’s designated sharp-shooter on a team loaded with outside shooting. The two offer veteran leadership on a squad that basically lacked significant contributions from upperclassmen for the past two years. On top of that foundation came the dynamic freshmen duo of Joe Rahon and Olivier Hanlan. Though only a freshman, Rahon provided an instant steadying presence at point guard and ultimately led all freshmen in the conference in total minutes played. Hanlan, however, brought more to the team than a steady presence. The dynamic freshman guard played well all season, but he came on with a fury at the end of the year, setting the ACC Tournament record for scoring by a freshman with 41 points against Georgia Tech. He would ultimately win ACC Freshman of the Year.
These four give Boston College a proven core, and if they continue to develop, the Eagles are a very dangerous team. Though the big men Dennis Clifford and KC Caudill haven’t developed at the same rate as their smaller peers, both are now experienced pieces of the puzzle and capable of helping BC with tough match-ups. The enigmatic Patrick Heckmann remains perhaps the team’s biggest X-factor. The swingman is capable of dazzling displays of offense as well as puzzling droughts. He finished last season with the team’s highest offensive efficiency rating, but has still struggled to find a consistent role on the team. With such a strongly established rotation, it’s unclear if this year’s freshmen will see much time on the court barring a serious injury to the team’s core. Darryl Hicks, Garland Owens and William Magarity come to the team with strong reputations, but there is simply a question of the availability of minutes. That said, Donahue had no problem instantly playing Rahon and Hanlan heavy minutes as freshmen, so if these three can contribute at a high enough level, expect that they will play.
In any event, Boston College is poised to be one of the most potent and deadly offensive teams in the ACC. Though outside shooting is certainly a component of this high-efficiency attack, a more critical aspect for this team is an ability to pick up easy points at the free throw line. In conference play, Boston College has a 42.1% free throw rate as a team, easily the best in the conference. As history as shown, the ability to hit threes and to reliably get to the line and make free throws is easily sufficient to score enough points on any given night.
The question that remains is whether Boston College improves enough on the defensive end to make any of this offensive prowess matter? Last season, BC finished with a total defensive efficiency rating of 102.1, which doesn’t seem so bad until you consider only conference games and get a defensive efficiency of 109.1, which would have been dead last in the ACC under normal circumstances (Virginia Tech’s near-historic disinterest in defense last year saved BC from that “honor”). The Eagles’ best offensive lineups are severely undersized and have a hard time matching up with teams that aren’t particularly big. When you factor in the truth that there doesn’t seem to be any indicator of defensive improvement between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, it makes predicting a defensive improvement for the 2014 season all the more difficult.
Is Boston College ready to make the leap? Only if the team can figure out how to play defense better than this roster has demonstrated so far. This team has a chance to be brilliant offensively and with a cast of proven guys, it can be very resilient. Without an improvement in defense it’s all a wash. Boston College will benefit from a schedule that has the Eagles playing Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech twice while facing Duke only a single time (in Chestnut Hill), but two games against Syracuse certainly hurts. A suddenly skilled BC defense would easily put this team into the top half of the ACC and potentially even into the NCAA Tournament. Adjusting for a more realistic performance? Boston College is probably going 8-10 in conference play.