Where Did Boston College Go Wrong?

Posted by Charlie Maikis on December 14th, 2016

Despite earning a surprising win against Auburn on Monday night, Boston College sits at just 5-5 on the season with losses to Harvard, Hartford and Nicholls State already on its resume. It’s no stretch to note that the Eagles are off to another tough start for what seems like the 100th season in a row. Still, it wasn’t that long ago that the program was riding high. Despite finishing over .500 just once since 2010-11 and enduring a sustained funk over the last five years that few major conference programs have endured, the Eagles under former head coach Al Skinner notched seven NCAA Tournament appearances in nine seasons during the 2000s.

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

Steve Donahue couldn’t maintain Al Skinner’s standards at Boston College. (Boston College Athletics)

As the sixth year of disappointment quickly moves toward conference play, the overarching question is where did Boston College go wrong? Skinner’s final season ended with a record of 15-16 (6-10 ACC), but the hiatus of talent that left with him had an immediate effect. Former ESPN 100 recruit Rakim Sanders decided to transfer to Fairfield, and incoming recruit Brady Heslip, who went on to become a major contributor for several successful Baylor teams, was released from his letter of intent. After Skinner had brought in two ESPN 100 recruits in his first two classes of that recruiting service’s era, the combination of Steve Donahue from 2010-14 and current head coach Jim Christian (2014-present) have combined to bring in just one — Ryan Anderson, who also transferred out, incidentally — in the seven classes since.

Although a major reason for the program’s cratering, a stark lack of ACC-quality talent has not been the only problem. Since Skinner’s departure, the Eagles have been led on the floor by a string of ball-dominant guards with a penchant for forcing too many bad shots. While that strategy may have worked once with future NBA player Reggie Jackson leading the Eagles to a 21-13 (9-7 ACC) record in Donahue’s first year, it has not been an otherwise successful strategy. With the exception of Anderson in 2012-13, a guard has led the team in percentage of shots taken while logging a mediocre effective field goal percentage under 53 percent every year since 2012. The likes of Olivier Hanlan, Eli Carter and, at present, Jerome Robinson have often stagnated the Boston College offense, ranking among the nation’s worst in three of the last six seasons.

Jim Christian is tasked with leading Boston College back to relevance (photo credit: Ted Fitzgerald/Boston Herald)

Jim Christian is tasked with leading Boston College back to relevance. (Ted Fitzgerald/Boston Herald)

For Boston College to get back to the status as a mid-tier ACC program with occasional postseason appearances, the biggest likely key will be to find some new diamonds in the rough — the next generation of Craig Smiths and Jared Dudleys — and hopefully in the frontcourt to better spread the offense. Boston College is not a basketball school like many of its conference counterparts, but it can offer an opportunity to compete in the best league in the country in a vibrant, world-class city. If Christian can string together enough of these acquisitions and keep most of his better players, there is an opportunity here to lead the program back to the middle of the ACC.

Charlie Maikis (15 Posts)

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