Thursday night, the Boston College men's basketball team played its first (exhibition) game against Bentley University. This tune-up against the nearby Division II team was meant to be a coming out party for an Eagles roster comprised mostly of new faces.
However, that wasn’t what transpired come game time as the Eagles narrowly escaped with an 85-75 win in a game they should have dominated by 30.
The Eagles feature a roster that has seven true freshman and ten total players who didn’t record a minute for BC last year. Of the three returning players, only Dennis Clifford and Garland Owens played significant minutes last season.
With such a young roster, there is great potential for success and growth, along with the likelihood of plenty of mistakes due to inexperience and youth.
In its first action of the season, many interesting story lines about this young team have already sprung up. Most notably, Olivier Hanlan’s replacement has arrived.
Losing First Team All-ACC, leading scorer, and all-time BC great Oliver Hanlan will take a toll on the program this season. However, Eli Carter showed Thursday that he is ready to step up and fill much of Hanlan’s void.
Carter is a graduate transfer coming off a very good year at the University of Florida. In his first appearance before the Conte faithful, he made his presence felt. Carter showed the ability to create his own shot, scoring 33 points. He proved capable of beating his man off the bounce and finding open teammates on the perimeter for open jumpers when the defense collapsed.
What will determine the success of the Eagles this year is how much the young guys can chip in around Carter. The two studs of Jim Christian’s first recruiting class are Jerome Robinson and AJ Turner, and both flashed their talent against Bentley.
Jerome Robinson showed the ability to be a great backcourt partner with Eli Carter. Robinson was routinely making weak-side three-pointers when the defense collapsed on Carter or when Clifford posted up.
Turner did not have as much of a presence on the stat sheet as Robinson, but showed the ability to use his length and athleticism on defense, frequently rotating over for great help-side blocks on many of Boston College’s defensive breakdowns.
Turner looked a little gun-shy on offense, but he will surely gain comfort in picking his spots to attack in the offense as the Eagles get more games under their belt.
The team’s action against the Falcons did leave a couple of big question marks in the minds of SuperFans.
BC boasts a roster with three players at or above 6’10” and six at or above 6’6”. Looking at this, one could expect them to dominate Bentley on defense and on the glass. Neither was the case. The Eagles were out-rebounded in the first half 21-12. Yet, Bentley doesn’t have a single player over 6’6”, not to mention that Bentley is a Division II team and that BC should just have superior athletes.
The rebounding differential cannot be entirely attributed to poor boxing out and lack of effort. The Eagles came out and showed a high 2-1-2 at times during the game—something they rarely flashed last season outside of the Louisville game.
When BC dropped into the zone, it was downright embarrassing. Bentley moved the ball with ease around the perimeter, resulting in at least ten wide open three-pointers off of skip passes that baffled the Eagles' defense.
Combine this with what looked like a team allergic to closing out on jump shots and the Eagles defense looked porous, to say the least.
There were a few bright spots in Conte on Thursday. The Eagles had great hustle and energy out of their small forward spot.
Garland Owens, no surprise, is still wildly athletic. What is impressive, though, is how much better he looked with the ball in his hands. Garland made a few very good moves to the basket and had a great baseline swing to AJ Turner in the second half. He looks primed for a big year.
Learning under Owens this year will be Latvian freshman Ervins Meznieks. Ervins is a lot like Owens was as a freshman—very raw in terms of basketball skill and knowledge, but a freak athlete and gutsy player. He made a few questionable decisions, taking contested three pointers and forcing post entries, but he will provide great energy off the bench, grabbing offensive boards and finishing some big dunks.
Moving forward, the Eagles are a high-ceiling and low-floor team. There is not the security coming in to this season that Hanlan provided last year, but the program is loaded with young talent.
Expect some headaches with poor defensive rotations and questionable shot decisions, but also expect some flashes of the great talent that BC has this year.
The season will officially get under way this coming Saturday against St. Francis of Brooklyn at Conte Forum.
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