Sports, Winter, Basketball, Women's Basketball

Previewing the 2022 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 left Boston College women’s basketball—then on the brink of its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2006—with a shortened season and unfulfilled postseason goals

This year, BC is back on the cusp of reaching the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles sit as one of ESPN’s “Last Four In” but must first look to the ACC Tournament ahead of Selection Sunday. 

Head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said BC is confident heading into the tournament, particularly as the Eagles are riding a three-game win streak. 

“I think the way we ended our regular season on that road swing with a couple wins really helped prepare us to go into the ACC Tournament—feeling both confident and ready for more action,” Bernabei-McNamee said in a press conference on Feb. 28.

BC’s first ACC Tournament opponent is Florida State, which defeated the Eagles on Feb. 17. Florida State, one of ESPN’s “First Four Out,” is also looking for a win to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive. 

“I hope we still have that little bit of frustration and fire in us, so we can move forward in this game on Thursday and really show that we are a better team than that,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “But I’m sure there are things Florida State wants to do better—do differently—as well. I think it’s a good matchup.”

Morgan Jones, the Seminoles’ leading scorer and rebounder on the season, dropped 17 points in Florida State’s last matchup with BC. The senior guard has shot 46.8 percent from field-goal range this season.

Jones and Florida State’s offense threatens to overwhelm a BC defense that has been porous at times this year. Despite boasting one of the country’s best shot blockers in Maria Gakdeng, who has 63 blocks on the season, the Eagles’ defense ranks 13th in the ACC in total points allowed. 

BC will look to its senior class on offense, particularly Cameron Swartz and Taylor Soule. Swartz, recently named the ACC’s most improved player, leads the team in scoring and has scored 20 points or more in her last six games—the longest streak by an ACC player since 2019. She surpassed 1,000 career points in BC’s regular season finale against Syracuse on Feb. 27.

“I think where you see [Swartz’s] big improvements is in that consistency, and that comes from a mental mindset—and I think she’s really brought a lot of confidence,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “When she’s playing confident, I think it also translates to our team playing confident. She exudes confidence, and then it rubs off. 

Soule has executed offensively for the Eagles this season. She ranks second on the team in points with 445 and in rebounds with 147. Supplemented by veterans Marnelle Garraud and Makayla Dickens, BC will bring a potent and experienced offensive unit to Greensboro. 

“I think it’s going to come down to, in this ACC Tournament, which teams are shooting the ball consistently in Greensboro,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “Because I do know every team—all the teams—are going to bring it with their emotions, with their game plan. It’s just going to come down to consistency with shooting the ball.”

A win over the Seminoles would set up a quarterfinal clash against top-seeded NC State. Aside from the conference’s usual heavyweights—NC State and Louisville—the ACC is loaded with four other teams ranked in the AP Top 25—North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech. 

According to Bernabei-McNamee, the Eagles are focused on the present. BC’s performance in the tournament has high stakes, especially for BC’s senior class which has had its eyes on going dancing for four years. 

“[The seniors] love each other,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “They stand for what is right. They’re high-character players. And so for me, I hope they get a strong run here in the tournament. I hope we go on to the NCAA Tournament and do some damage there as well.” 

Featured Graphic by Annie Corrigan / Heights Editor

March 1, 2022