Something big happened this past week for BC hoops. The men’s basketball team, for the first time since December 2010, received votes in the AP Poll. The Eagles received 5 votes in the AP 2013-14 Preseason poll, making them No. 41 overall to start the season. Yes, this is just a poll, and yes, these are just predictions, but it’s a huge step towards gaining the same respectability we once had in the mid-2000s Al Skinner era.
The Eagles have a lot going for them after last season. Although they didn’t make it to March Madness, they made it past the first round in the ACC Tournament and gave Miami a good run for their money in the second round, which resulted in a 69-58 loss. There was even talk about making the NCAA as a wildcard team this past season, but alas, those were just hopeful rumors. But this season, the fourth season with Steve Donahue as head coach, there are certainly high expectations confronting the Eagles.
2012-13 was the year to prove that BC basketball is not dead. We are very much alive and motivated to make a huge impact in the ACC. Although things did start off a bit shaky, the Eagles really stepped up their game. After a disappointing loss to Harvard in December, we went on a five-game winning streak. And who can forget the February game against Duke? Never have I seen Conte Forum so packed and excited for basketball. I was standing right at the edge of the court in those last few seconds, hoping that we could come up with the upset. Unfortunately, BC lost 62-61, and then freshman guard Olivier Hanlan took this loss to heart. The whole team did, but you could see that Hanlan was especially affected. After Duke, BC went undefeated at home, finishing their season with a 16-17 record, 7-11 in the ACC (8th place). This was a huge improvement considering the 2011-12 season finished off 9-22, and 4-12 in the ACC.
Now looking forward, there are several positive qualities that comprise this team. The team that Donahue had to generate from the ground up with nine freshman coming into the 2011-12 season is now matured, and ready to make an impact in the ACC. Though one of the younger teams in the country in years past, these Eagles have definitely proved that they are here to play. Junior forward and new captain Ryan Anderson finished off this past season with a 14.9 PPG, and ACC Rookie of the Year Olivier Hanlan became an overnight success with his 15.4 PPG season and his record-breaking 41-point game in the first round of the ACC tournament. These two have really grown this past year and became the scoring leaders that this team needs. Junior forward Eddie Odio is another guy who really found his game last season. His dunking abilities are absolutely insane, and should provide a shot-blocking presence on defense. This was a brand new, confident Odio that had not been seen in Conte before. Sophomore guard Joe Rahon, who has been named captain along with Anderson, had a stellar season as well, starting in all 33 games, and ranked second in assists and fifth in points among all ACC freshmen.
I could go on and highlight each and every individual player's improvements since the 2011-12 season. But the most important improvement to note is what the group has done to improve themselves as a whole. They look like a team now. They look like they’re having fun and doing what they love. The support off the bench when Odio makes a dunk, when Lonnie Jackson makes a three or when Hanlan sweeps through his opponents to make that tough 2-point shot that the team needed desperately to stay in the game, is support that embodies true camaraderie. When you watch a team that looks like they’re putting their heart and soul into the game, it’s that much easier to root for them.
With the deterioration of the Big East Conference (RIP), we have four new teams in the ACC mix: Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest. ‘Cuse is obviously going to make some noise in the ACC this year, and Pitt and ND have the capability to stir things up as well. Duke is the conference favorite, as usual, along with North Carolina and Miami, the current ACC champs. BC has some big names they’re going up against, but the almost-upset against Duke shows that we have the capacity to get those wins. The four freshmen we have coming in will hopefully fill the void where BC is lacking. Will Magarity has the defensive size that is needed to fill in for junior Dennis Clifford, who has been having on-again, off-again health issues since last season. The other three freshmen, Sam Donahue, Garland Owens and Darryl Hicks all have shooting ability that can make a huge impact on the court. They bring a new energy that the team needs to keep them going this season.
BC starts on the 2013-14 season this Friday night in Providence at 6 p.m. Although Lonnie Jackson will miss this game due to a hamstring issue, expectations are high. It is everyone’s hope that the Eagles will find the energy and motivation to win--and win big--early on in the season, and keep that running through to March, and then the postseason. We may be young, but we’re hungry for results and respectability in the NCAA. Hey, we do have a 250-1 chance to win the National Championship according to bovada.lv, so who knows what will happen?
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