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COLUMN: In Need Of All The Right Moves

Sports Editor

Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013

Updated: Sunday, April 28, 2013 22:04

 

It’s time for a dancing lesson. The Boston College men’s basketball schedule for next year is starting to take shape, and head coach Steve Donahue has his eyes set on his first NCAA Tournament bid since he coached at Cornell. So, what will it take to get the Eagles back to the Big Dance?

BC will likely only be able to afford two losses in the non-conference games, maybe three at the most. The road woes will have to be fixed at USC and at Auburn, and the Eagles will have to start strong in a likely season opener at Providence. Other must-win games include the potential matchup with UMass at TD Garden, the regional rounds for the 2K Classic, and the other two home games, which haven’t been announced yet.

 Now, on to the more difficult part. It looks like BC’s matchup for the ACC/Big 10 Challenge will be either Illinois, Minnesota, or Purdue. The Eagles also have a tentative agreement to face VCU at the Barclays Center after Christmas, and then could face any combination of Indiana, UConn, and Washington at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Classic in November. And, of course, there is the game with Harvard, which is going to be played at Lavietes Pavilion against a Crimson squad ranked in the top 25 of the early polls. With a tournament bid on the line, BC will have to go 3-2 in these five games. A first-round win or a victory in the third place game at the 2K Classic combined with two wins either over VCU, in the Challenge, or at Harvard would put the Eagles in a good spot heading into conference play.

In conference play, the magic number should be set at 11 or 12 wins. BC can remain a bubble team with 11, and possibly 10, if some of those wins come over highly ranked teams. The Eagles will have to top Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech both on the road and at home. That would make four. 

It’s easiest to break things down between home and away games. Syracuse, Notre Dame, FSU, Clemson, Duke, Maryland, and Pitt all play at Conte Forum. BC also has Syracuse and Notre Dame again on the road, as well as Miami, UNC, Wake Forest, NC State, and Virginia. It should take about three high-quality ACC wins to make enough noise for the Eagles to grab an at-large bid. So, with two games against Syracuse, two against the Irish, home games against Duke and FSU, and then away games at UNC and Virginia, the ACC teams currently ranked in CBS.com’s top 25 poll, BC has eight chances to get those three wins with five of them coming at home.

Those three wins would bring the win total to seven, with home games remaining against Clemson, Maryland, and Pitt as well as away games at Miami, Wake, and NC State. If BC can take care of business at home, then a win on the road at Wake would push the ACC win total to 11, and the overall record to 20-9. Even if a couple extra losses creep in there, the Eagles could possibly make up for it with a run in the conference tournament. 

Can it happen? Donahue said he expects his team to be able to go 10 deep next year, and that doesn’t include a possible fifth-year transfer the coaching staff is still pursuing to strengthen the front court. The seven-man rotation from this season will be strengthened by freshmen Darryl Hicks and Garland Owens, as well as Notre Dame transfer Alex Dragicevich, who sat out this season.

“With the addition of Alex, Garland, and Darryl … with everyone else back, we can do more things than we’ve done in my two years with this group,” Donahue said. “Full court defense, more pressure, changing defenses, playing faster, all of those things.”

 Offense really shouldn’t be an issue for this team with all of its weapons, and the additional depth allows Donahue to get more creative on the defensive end. BC was competitive in nearly every ACC game last year, outside of a few clunkers on the road, but getting over that hump won’t be easy. As Donahue has said before, the next step will be the most difficult one his players will have to take. In order to go dancing, it’s going to take all the right moves.

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