It is not a buzzword at Conte Forum anymore-it is a reality.
Steve Donahue’s men’s basketball team has failed to live up to the expectations placed upon it last fall. After a team based around freshmen incurred a nine-win season two years ago, it followed it up by nearing the .500 mark, with guards Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon introduced to the mix.
Both sophomores have bolstered Boston College’s offense and turned it into one of the nation’s best. Donahue’s offense is based around the spread, which is a motion offense that sticks five guys around the perimeter and drops a big man down low. It is designed to have four or five players on the floor who have the ability to shoot the ball from distance. The spread creates an exciting attack, and when it is fluid, it can produce an exciting and effective brand of basketball.
Believe it or not, the Eagles are one of the most efficient offensive squads in college basketball. In the ACC, they rank second, behind Duke, in adjusted field goal percentage, which takes into account the number of points gained from each shot attempted. While the Eagles’ field goal percentage, overall, is on par with the rest of the conference, Donahue’s offense is more efficient in its shooting.
Donahue’s team has also been competitive in most games this season, despite facing what Ken Pomeroy’s ratings say is the nation’s third most difficult schedule, and that only takes into account the teams the Eagles have played, not the length and number of road trips the Eagles have taken. Donahue chose to forgo the cushy home schedule the team has had in the past. BC’s head coach has admitted he was wrong and that he overscheduled the team. There is not doubt that the road trips have taken a toll on the team. Confidence, which often dictates a player’s mentality, has been cited as a huge role in this team’s downfall. The overscheduling has exacerbated the squad’s issues. Had it played the schedule it faced last year, the team could have more confidence in itself, and it could have picked up more wins.
Take Clemson, for example. The Tigers had a comparable year to the Eagles last season, and the two sides are at similar points of development. Both coaches scheduled games with Auburn and UMass and were defeated. While the Tigers were able to hang with Auburn for longer and lose to the Minutemen by less than the Eagles, they narrowly escaped Conte Forum with a victory. After beating the Eagles, Clemson’s head coach Brad Brownell said that he scheduled easy to build confidence. His strategy has worked, as Clemson is sixth in the ACC standings behind each of the five ACC teams that has been ranked at one point, or another, this season.
It is also hard to fault Donahue for the loss of Dennis Clifford. While BC is by no means a lock for 20 wins with the big man in the lineup, it certainly would not be limited to just six victories, even with this schedule. Clifford in the lineup would improve BC’s play in the post, as it would push Ryan Anderson to the 4, where he shone in his first two years at the school.
On the recruiting end, there is not much Donahue can do. He is limited to just one scholarship this year. Next season, the core of the team will be the same. Even with speculation that Hanlan, the team’s leading scorer-and the ACC’s third best in that category-is leaving, there are a few mock draft boards that do not have his name on them. Hanlan is a talisman with the ball and could use another year in college to develop his defensive abilities and raise his basketball IQ.
If Donahue leaves, one can assume that Hanlan and others leave as well. While the team can get frustrated and is prone to dry spells in games, the Eagles do not give up. Late in the second half of games, Donahue can call a timeout and inspire the team. Even coming out of the gate after intermission against Syracuse at home weeks ago, the Eagles were fired up. In the end, that time, the Orange was just too good. Even at 7-19, the Eagles’ tempo of play is not too lethargic. Without Donahue at the helm, that could change.
Darryl Hicks will also be available to play next year. The Kentucky Mr. Basketball finalist is a highly rated shooting guard who was the second-best recruit coming out of the state in 2013, between Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins, who were both signed by Kentucky.
By firing Donahue, the basketball program could come close to starting a revolving door of basketball coaches, which is why the team’s current coach is a better option for the long run. Since his first day in Chestnut Hill, Donahue has been focused on tomorrow as opposed to today.
Donahue is also aiming in the right direction, and he has started to sign ACC quality players. A few of his signings have been successful, namely Hanlan and Rahon. Garland Owens is a game-breaker with potential for the future.
Defensively, Donahue was able to figure things out with the team Al Skinner left behind. While this current edition of the Eagles was disastrous at defending the basket at the start of the season, it has greatly improved. Now, the Eagles just need to get stops at the end to win games. Over the season, they’ve lost games on average by less than five points, which has put them just one or two stops away from taking the lead. The defense is the problem, and with another year in charge of this group, Donahue can fix his system better than a coach in his first year at the school.
While this season is not ideal for the program, Donahue should be given another year to lock down the defense and better one of the nation’s strongest attacks.