Boston College women’s basketball will look to repeat the success of its shortened 2019–20 campaign, as the Eagles tip off their season on Tuesday. Sports editors Emma Healy, Asa Ackerly, and Ethan Ott give their predictions for how the season will shake out.
Will BC be able to bounce back from a tough year last year and recreate its successful 2019–20 season?
Ethan Ott: Taylor Soule, Makayla Dickens, Cameron Swartz, and Marnelle Garraud all played exceptionally well last season, and fortunately for the Eagles, all three—as well as the rest of BC’s starting five—will return this season. Without the same pressure of COVID-19 and high expectations to live up to, last season’s disappointment could provide fuel for the fire of this year’s team. It is irresponsible to say that this year’s team can completely recreate the 2019–20 season because of its Cinderella story–like ethos, but it is almost a guarantee that this year’s team will be better than last year’s with most of its roster returning.
Asa Ackerly: I really believe that last year was a fluke. BC did not have any seniors, utilized two players who graduated a semester early from high school, and was hit harder by COVID-19 issues than any other of BC’s winter sports. The majority of the 2019–20 team is back and has markedly improved, and the Eagles should boast a solid bench with the addition of transfer Dontavia Waggoner. Punch your tournament ticket now.
Emma Healy: It’s easy to believe in a team stacked with seniors and led by a former ACC Coach of the Year. Joanna Bernabei-McNamee has proven before that she can turn a down-in-the-dumps program into one of national relevance, as she did over the course of three years with the 2020 senior class. Hampered by COVID-19, the 2020–21 Eagles put out a result that felt like a fluke: a 7–12 record, including 2–11 in ACC play, and an almost entirely unchanged roster has all the signs of progress.
Who is BC’s most important player?
Ethan: BC’s most important player is Soule. Last season, Soule led the Eagles in scoring, minutes, shooting percentage, rebounds, and points per game. Her exceptional play launched her to an almost celebrity status around BC, and for good reason, as her .430 field goal percentage and 299 points speak for themselves. She averaged over two points per game more than BC’s second-leading scorer last season, and with another offseason of experience under her belt she can only get better. The senior guard is prolific on both offense and defense, and she is primed to lead the Eagles back to the successful season she experienced as part of the 2019–20 roster.
Asa: Dickens. BC’s disappointing season last year clouded Dickens’ performance as one of the best shooters in the nation, hitting a blistering 45 percent of her 3-point attempts. It feels unlikely that she will match that stunning performance again this year, but if she can get anywhere close, BC should be a great perimeter shooting team.
Emma: Soule, Dickens, and Garraud will obviously be essential to the Eagles’ success, as the trio has been the foundation for Bernabei-McNamee’s offense for the last three years. For the Eagles to really take the next step in the ACC, BC will need Swartz to step up. She had a spotty year last year, averaging 13.4 points per game but shooting just 23.8 percent from distance. She can be a weapon from downtown, and in conjunction with Dickens’ elite perimeter shooting, Swartz could make the difference in BC’s offensive success.
What is the-best case scenario for the Eagles?
Ethan: If BC can turn around its play from last season and work cohesively, it is capable of a successful season. A winning record is likely, and an NCAA Tournament appearance is not out of the question. The beginning of BC’s season is padded by 11 non-conference games before getting into the brunt of an 18-game ACC schedule. The ACC is the strongest women’s basketball conference in the country this season, but BC could compete with many of its conference opponents. A 20-win season is within the realm of possibility, but 18–11 seems like a likely best-case scenario for BC.
Asa: The top of the ACC may be a step too far for BC, considering the dominance of NC State, Louisville, and Georgia Tech, but the Eagles could be knocking on the door from the top of the second tier. If Dickens matches last year’s output, Swartz reaches her potential, and Soule stays on her trajectory, BC is an elite offensive team. Look for a deep ACC Tournament run and a solid seed in March Madness.
Emma: BC has never been a national powerhouse in women’s basketball, and that fact is unlikely to change this year. But that’s not to say that BC can’t still have success. BC’s most difficult opponent in non-conference play comes in the form of Boston University, which finished 12–3 with a runner-up finish in the Patriot League Tournament last season. Conference play will be a grind as always, but a winning season is entirely possible. Best-case scenario, I can see BC going 19–10.
What is the worst-case scenario for the Eagles?
Ethan: While it seems unlikely given the Eagles’ experience together, there is still a chance BC’s core fails to mesh and the Eagles’ play resembles that of their 2020 season, when each game a different player shined while the rest played below their potential. If the Eagles fail to break last year’s habits, a 12–17 finish feels realistic.
Asa: In this year’s college football season, it became clear that a number of the programs that struggled in 2020 because of what seemed to be COVID-19-related issues actually just struggled because, well, they were always going to struggle. Soule shot 10 percent worse from the field last year than she had the year before, and I’m inclined to believe that she will rebound and then some this year, but it spells real trouble for BC if she does not. A regression by Dickens and a lack of development from BC’s bench players, and the Eagles could be set for another poor season beneath .500.
Emma: If BC doesn’t get out of the gate hot in non-conference play, ACC competition will be a slog. The Eagles can’t afford any injuries or absences to their starting five as the majority of BC’s reserve players are freshmen and sophomores lacking in experience. Injuries or a slow start to the season could spell disaster for the Eagles, resulting in the potential for a 14–15 season, or perhaps 13–16. Still, that result would be a marked improvement from the year prior.
How do you see the season ending?
Ethan: With its entire core returning this season, the Eagles are well equipped for a successful 2021–22 run. Soule, Dickens, Swartz, and Garraud have all proven themselves, and Ally Vantimmeren and Clara Ford should step up as well. A strong 16–13 finish is reasonable.
Asa: I’m really confident that this senior class is going to go out with a bang. The Eagles can at least match their 2019–20 production, finish in the top third of the conference, and reach the NCAA Tournament. Soule can continue to establish herself as one of the best players in the country, and BC will run teams off the court with speed and outside shooting.
Emma: The pieces are all there for BC, it’s just a matter of putting them together. The Eagles seem to have no trouble in the offense department, with prolific shooters lining the roster. If BC can take a step forward on defense, the Eagles could crack 17–12.
Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor