On Wednesday Nov. 6, Boston College men’s basketball will tip off against Wake Forest in Conte Forum to inaugurate the 2019-2020 season.
Many considered last season to be a disappointment, and this season looks to succeed the same low expectations. Last year, BC finished three games under .500, with an abysmal 5-13 record in ACC play. In their wins, they were often carried by Ky Bowman, who has since chosen to forego his senior year at BC and instead join the Golden State Warriors.
The Eagles’ third-leading scorer last season, Wynston Tabbs, missed a significant number of games last year due to a knee injury; he will now miss the entire 2019-20 season after undergoing surgery.
Jordan Chatman also remains a big loss for the Eagles, as he ranked among BC’s most effective perimeter scorers. While his midrange and driving abilities were inconsistent last year, he still remained second on the team in three-point shooting efficiency and volume behind Bowman.
With Bowman, Tabbs, and Chatman gone, BC only has one player–Chris Herren Jr.–who shot over 30% from behind the arc last year.
Chris Herren Jr. will now get the opportunity to step up and become a top shooting option for the Eagles. Herren only scored 4.3 PPG last year, but his volume should increase significantly this year.
Although he was unable to handle the ball frequently due to the depth at the guard position, he will now likely get the green light to shoot at will. Much of his season hinges upon his ability to improve his shooting from the field and from the line. While his 33% from the field is a good start for a walk-on freshman, his 36% from the field and 50% from the charity stripe leave much to be desired.
His deep shooting abilities inspire confidence that he has the potential to become a great free-throw shooter, and his overall field goal percentage could improve if he learns to be more selective with his shots.
He seems to have put in the work this offseason, telling BCEagles.com he “had a video camera set up every day so [he] could just watch [himself] shoot. [He] wanted to get back to the terminology that [the team] used, and [he] wanted to just keep getting better on defense.” This bodes well for his upcoming season.
With BC’s dearth of scoring options, Nik Popovic will also get his chance to shine. After averaging 14.5 PPG and 7.2 rebounds per game last season, Popovic tested the waters for the 2019 NBA Draft before eventually pulling out and choosing to play out his final year of eligibility for BC.
His game, in many ways, mirrors NBA MVP candidate Nikola Jokic in that he has great passing skills for his position, he can score, and he provides size to his team’s lineup. However, he often struggles when forced to defend elite big men. His versatility and his ability to grow defensively will likely prove to be instrumental to BC’s success this year.
While Popovic has a stellar offensive skillset but struggles on defense, Steffon Mitchell is the exact opposite. Mitchell knows his role on the team and plays it well. There are games when Mitchell can put up zero points and zero assists on the stat sheet, but make invaluable contributions on defense. This unselfish, gritty, Ben Wallace-esque style of play is exactly what the Eagles need to secure some wins this season.
Still, it will likely be a rough year for the Eagles. While they have talent, most of it is raw and underdeveloped. Makai Ashton-Langford, Derryck Thornton, and Jairus Hamilton were all highly-touted recruits coming out of high school, but have yet to reach their potential.
Ashton-Langford and Thornton are transfers from Providence and USC, respectively, and it is likely too late in their collegiate career for head coach Jim Christian to coach them up to their abilities. Hamilton just finished his freshman season at BC but was outperformed by his older brother, Jared.
With Jay Heath Jr. and Julian Rishawain, respective 4-star and 3-star recruits, looking to make an instant impact on BC’s shallow roster, the fate of the team depends entirely on how well Christian can develop his guys. He has an abundance of raw, young talent but has shown time and time again that he struggles in this area.
In all likelihood, this is another mid-ceiling, low-floor season for the Eagles. In their best-case scenario, if everyone on the team clicks and meets their potential, they probably still can’t win more than 6 games in ACC play.
Between the major losses of Ky Bowman and Wynston Tabbs, the number of players relying on development from an inefficient coaching staff, and a grueling schedule featuring six games against teams ranked within the top 11, the team could very well see a repeat of 2016’s 0-18 in-conference performance.