Featured Column, Men's Basketball, Column

A Long-Term Perspective is Best for Men’s Basketball

For the first time, I was asking myself why I was in Conte Forum.

In a year and a half of being at Boston College, I’ve gone to Conte Forum. As either a fan or member of the media, I’ve been to men’s and women’s basketball games, men’s and women’s hockey games, sat in on a handful of practices, and attended plenty of media events. Every single time, I was happy to be there to get my sports fix.

But then, at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night, I walked into Conte and felt differently. I attempted to count the individual fans on my own and listened as the pep band tried to fill the silent void. At one point, a security guard’s job consisted solely of looking at me: I was literally the only one standing near a section where the students usually start filling in. As the sound system fed music into empty space, BC and Virginia Tech came out to the court in what looked like slow motion. This was rock bottom.

Following what was probably one of the most embarrassing defeats in program history, in which the Eagles made national news for their complete ineptitude against a Wake Forest team missing its best player, the state of affairs surrounding the team was bleak.

So why was I here? Was I just avoiding real-world responsibilities and hiding from the thought of a midterm at the end of the week? I think it was something deeper inside of me. The very last strain of optimism that I hold for one of my favorite sports was dying, and I was determined to not let it go on my own. I was gonna be at this game, even if the atmosphere and game sucked all the life out of me. I’m not giving up on Jim Christian or this program so soon.

I knew three outcomes were possible. 1. BC would implode again and I would most likely wither away and perish. 2. BC would narrowly lose by about six as betting lines suggested and that would be that. 3. BC would get its first win and some internal life force would heal my aching soul.

A game like the one against Wake Forest is unacceptable, so BC had to show that it could bounce back and not give up on the season. Avoiding outcome 1 was imperative, but other than that, I didn’t think that BC would win, and I didn’t care. All it had to prove to me was that it hasn’t given up.

The actual outcome of the game was somewhere in the middle of the first two. The game was really bad. Both teams were incredibly sloppy, and the game looked like a Rec league at times. In the end, Virginia Tech did its thing in getting to the foul line a lot and hit its shots. The Eagles did not. They were horrendous from the field, especially from deep (1-for-15?!). No one created any offense outside of Dennis Clifford and Eli Carter, who finished with a double-double and continues to drive his revival tour van, as beat up as it may be.

With my faith in this team on the line, I was undoubtedly let down. I expected a much closer game. That last strain of optimism, however, is still alive within me.

This season is not the end of the world, so let’s get some perspective before anything gets out of hand.

First off, injuries are a big factor. BC was improving with better showings against Miami, Florida State, Clemson, and a highly impressive performance against UNC. Then two starters got injured, and BC became a depleted team.

Take a look at the starting lineup from Tuesday: Clifford, Eli Carter, Ervins Meznieks, Garland Owens, Sammy Barnes-Thompkins. I don’t expect a single win from this squad.

Clifford is still only a shade of his former self, even in his second year back from injury. Meznieks is a long-term project that is nowhere near ready to be an ACC starter. Owens is just simply not a scorer, and Barnes-Thompkins does his best despite his size.

To top it all off, the first three off the bench are Matt Milon, a streaky, inexperienced shooter, Daryl Hicks, playing in his first season in three years, and Idy Diallo, a last-minute recruit from last year that looks like a lost hope.

I don’t think any coach—except for those in the NBA like Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich, or even Brad Stevens—can get anything out of these players.

So the Eagles didn’t lose because Christian can’t coach them up to important, winnable games. They are simply not good at scoring. They got the open looks, and they just missed them. The players aren’t playing badly because they are hanging their heads, they are hanging their heads because they can’t score. And they can’t score because players like Owens, Hicks, and Meznieks are forced into a lot more of an offensive role without Turner and Robinson. It’s a confidence problem, not a morale problem, and that’s somewhat okay because lack of confidence is to be expected with a young team. BC also happens to be missing one of its most confident players in Turner.

This is all offensive, of course. Defensively, I saw them continue to play actively and rebound well against Virginia Tech. Clifford’s play and Garland’s career high in rebounds are positives that it hasn’t all gone down the drain.

If this team does have one scary problem, however, it’s Carter. He stinks. He is the best basketball player on the team who at times looks like its worst. His shot selection is terrible, especially from 3-point range, and he tries to do too much. He’ll get his 18 points, but has to shoot 18 times to do so. He has Aaron Brown’s streakiness from last year, but he has the ball as much as Olivier Hanlan. I’ll deal with this, as long he’s a leader off the court for all the young guys.

As of right now, Christian is 2-for-3 as head coach. First, he proved last year that he could coach a team, getting a misfit group of players to hang with the best teams and drawing a lot of praise from ACC coaches in the process. Second, he proved that he can have success on the recruiting trail, bringing in the much-hyped A.J. Turner and finding a steal in Jerome Robinson. Now, he gets his first strike against him with the way this season is going.

But it’s only rock bottom in the short-term. This season doesn’t matter. I don’t care if we don’t win a game in the ACC. Christian isn’t tasked to create an immediate tournament team. I believe in his long-term mission to build a program. Besides, maybe we’ll get another new athletic facility built for every horrible season just to keep people happy. In the long-term, Carter is gone, Turner and Robinson get healthy and keep improving, and all that’s left is for Christian to keep bringing in recruits. While his leash undoubtedly got tighter following these bad losses, he still has time.

Admittedly, I left the game midway through the second half. I would maybe have left at halftime, but an unbelievable Garland putback slam in the final seconds kept me hoping for just a bit more.

Eventually, I went back to my real-world responsibilities and put aside sports to focus on important things, like academics and creating great Spotify playlists. I live to see another game of BC basketball.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

February 25, 2016