Boston College’s Defense is Terrible on an Historic Scale

Posted by Kellen Carpenter on January 17th, 2014

Remember that time when there were a bunch of folks rumbling about how it was time for Boston College to take a big step forward this year? The Eagles were virtually losing no production while bringing back a number of players who had shown flashes of brilliance. At Operation Basketball, the media that covers the ACC picked Boston College to finish eighth in the conference, while at this very website, a bunch of turkeys picked them to finish seventh. With the Eagles currently lurking near the bottom of the ACC standings, these predictions might seem silly, but taking a step back: losses to Syracuse, Clemson, and Maryland aren’t so bad. That’s just a tough(-ish) opening schedule.

What Has Happened to Steve Donahue's Defense? (Boston College Athletics)

What Has Happened to Steve Donahue’s Defense? (Boston College Athletics)

The really concerning thing about Boston College, you might say, is how the team did during non-conference play. No matter where you are, 4-9 is not a great way to start the year, especially with your four wins coming against Washington (not bad), Florida Atlantic, Sacred Heart and Philadelphia (a legendary program that is nevertheless in Division II). Of course, this poor performance can be explained away too: BC played a bunch of really good teams. In Division I, Ken Pomeroy currently calculates the Eagles as having the fifth-toughest overall schedule and the 22nd hardest non-conference schedule. Can we really say that Boston College is playing poorly given the quality of opponents they are facing? Perhaps BC’s crummy record is just an artifact of scheduling: context overwhelming a team that would look much better against average competition. It’s early in the season. Surely those who dare to call Boston College terrible are simply overreacting!

A couple things: The “early-in-the-season” stuff should be over by now. Boston College has played 17 scheduled non-exhibition games with only 14 left to go. This team is well over halfway in, and at this point, hoping for the team to still come together in a new and surprising way is probably grasping at straws. Secondly, Boston College is terrible. There is no way around that. While this team has the capability to be sublime on offense (probably the most capable in the conference after Syracuse, Duke, and Pittsburgh by offensive efficiency numbers), this team is so bad on defense.

How bad are they?

  • They are so bad, that no ACC team in the Ken Pomeroy era (post-2003) has finished the season with an adjusted defensive efficiency worse than Boston College’s mark of 111.2.
  • They are so bad , that the closest ACC team to that mark is 2011 Wake Forest, which only had an adjusted defensive adjusted deficiency of 107.7 en route to a 1-15 conference finish (8-24) overall.
  • They are so bad, that this point deserves emphasis: Boston College is playing worse defense than 2011 Wake Forest, which is the champion low-water mark for terrible ACC play.
  • They are so bad, that I have to remind you that this number is Boston College’s adjusted defensive efficiency. This number already tries to take into account the difficulty of the schedule.

We should have seen this coming, and to be fair, most folks pointed to the Eagles’ defense as a tremendous red flag. Last season, Boston College played a much easier non-conference schedule (263rd) which sort of artificially inflated the team’s numbers from last year. Overall BC posted an adjusted defensive efficiency of 102.1, an unspectacular, but passable mark. Yet, in conference play last year, Boston College’s adjusted defensive efficiency was 109.1 (which as a reminder, is worse than the overall adjusted defensive efficiency mark of any ACC team since 2003).  So, the evidence was there: The Eagles were playing some hair-rending, mind-melting bad defense even last season, but the awfulness was mostly contained in the friendly confines of the conference. This year, Boston College’s in-conference adjusted defensive efficiency is 115.0.

So, this Saturday, when Boston College takes on North Carolina (currently sporting an in-conference adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 84.1), we might get to see a beautiful illusion: a terrible offense taking on a terrible defense and creating the temporary illusion of watchable, competent basketball.

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