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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Point / Counterpoint - Will BC Men's Basketball Make The NIT?

Experience And Leader Are Assetts

Assoc. Sports Editor

Published: Monday, January 28, 2013

Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013 01:01

A string of close conference losses, limited minutes from their team captain, and another year of starting one of the league’s youngest lineups—judging by this laundry list of obstacles, the Boston College men’s basketball team has had to overcome a lot so far this season. 

Though its overall record doesn’t stand out on the stat sheet, the leadership, potential, and grit BC has shown will be recognized with an NIT birth.

The success of any team worthy of postseason contention is shaped at the top by its head coach. If the recent past is proof that this maxim can hold true, then the Eagles have a valuable advantage with head coach Steve Donahue at the helm. His previous success is no secret, as he developed a struggling Cornell team and turned it into an Ivy League powerhouse that earned three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths. 

Perhaps this year’s BC team is not as experienced as the Cornell squad he took to the Sweet Sixteen in 2010 or even the Eagles he led to the NIT’s second round in 2011. Yet Donahue’s winning pedigree has already rubbed off on the BC basketball program during his brief tenure, placing strong fundamentals as the team’s priority. When his continual stress of sound play materializes into consistent execution during this season’s second half, BC will have a leader well-qualified to navigate them through the path toward the postseason.

When BC receives its NIT invitation, it will owe a lot of credit to its impressive rookie backcourt of Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon—a product of Donahue’s basketball philosophy. Both freshmen not only provide a credible foundation for this team’s future, but also its immediate success in 2013. Combining for four ACC Rookie of the Week honors and each enjoying double-digit season averages in scoring, the tandem has already had a lot of big-game experience. For any team, a cohesive backcourt is the backbone of effective execution.

Young players in one of the country’s most competitive basketball conferences are bound to have their ups and downs, but for every heartbreaking last-second miss at the free-throw line there will be a breakout performance. The combination of the perseverance and skill BC’s backcourt provides can carry an entire team down the stretch.

Of course, college basketball skeptics will appropriately argue that a team’s postseason fate is ultimately decided by wins and losses. The Eagles 1-5 conference record and overall mark of 9-10 doesn’t do much to make its case for NIT contention. Yet one must take a better look at BC’s losses to realize that the Eagles aren’t just close—they’re practically knocking on the door. Of their five conference losses, Donahue’s Eagles have lost four of them by five points or fewer. Two of those defeats include a late-game loss to No. 18 NC State and a last-second surrender to No. 25 Miami, who have both beaten No. 1 ranked Duke this season. 

If BC can take any consolation prize away from these tough losses, it’s that they’re playing great teams down to the wire and gaining confidence as a result. Their schedule doesn’t get any easier, as they host Roy Williams’s always-dangerous UNC squad tomorrow night, but the Eagles are only a few more fortunate bounces away from the streak of upsets worthy of an NIT invite. Donahue’s message has been very clear from the beginning: this group of Eagles will win the close games they’ve encountered sooner rather than later

Despite its rollercoaster season, BC has already begun to collect the makings of a viable postseason resume. Donahue’s winning pedigree, one of the ACC’s most effective young backcourts, and the will to duel with any of the NCAA’s elites will make the Eagles’ 2013 stretch run one to remember. Knowing this BC team, a successful run at the NIT will only be a step in the right direction toward the promised land—an invitation to March Madness next spring

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