Perception May Hurt Men’s Basketball Down the Road

BC men's basketball

There are good teams, there are bad teams, and there are ugly teams. Boston College men’s basketball has looked like all three at given points in the 2015-16 season, but the Eagles’ 79-47 loss against the University of Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday afternoon was 60 minutes of pure, unadulterated ugliness.

Fresh off the announcement of a self-imposed postseason ban, Louisville looked—somewhat ironically—like a motivated team against BC. The Cardinals (19-4, 8-2 Atlantic Coast) generally play strong defense under longtime head coach Rick Pitino, and they’ve been known to frustrate teams into committing a number of reckless turnovers. But what happened with the Eagles (7-16, 0-10) on Saturday was worse than that—the team finished with 18 turnovers in one of their more careless efforts of the season.

Even though the Cardinals’ leading scorer Damion Lee was out with an injury, BC was beaten by Louisville in every major statistical category. The Eagles were outshot from the field, behind the arc, and from the free throw line; outrebounded offensively and defensively; outscored in bench points; fouled more; and turned the ball over more.

Has any team, in any sport, in any era, ever won a game like that?

There was a three-possession sequence about five minutes into the first half that essentially told you all you needed to know about the Eagles’ mindset against the Cardinals.

BC started with the ball at the top of the key. Graduate senior guard Eli Carter made a move to drive to the basket, but fell and gave the ball away in the process. As he went down, he tripped up Dennis Clifford, giving Louisville an easy bucket on the other end.

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BC was given a break on its subsequent offensive possession—a pass that went off of Carter and out of bounds was incorrectly called in favor of the Eagles. On the next inbounds play, though, Clifford airmailed a crosscourt pass to Garland Owens with a wide-open Carter standing alone near halfcourt. Louisville’s Trey Lewis knocked down an easy 3-pointer on the other end.

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BC’s next offensive possession was more constructive, in that the team made it to the end of the 30 seconds without falling over or throwing the ball out of bounds. It was not constructive, however, in that the Eagles failed to even register a look at the net before the shot clock buzzer sounded. Carter was still in the process of running and pick-and-roll at the time the horn went off. The entire team was oblivious to the clock—from the crowd’s point of view, no one even seemed to care.

turnover_3Carter has been playing collegiate basketball for five years now, and while the shot clock was just shortened by five seconds this season, this is not the type of mistake a team leader should be making. Missed shots are obviously not ideal, but at the very least they are justifiable—sometimes it’s just not your night. It would be unfair to expect each player to shoot the lights out each and every game.

It’s tough to make excuses, however, for the numerous mental mistakes that many of the Eagles’ most significant contributors made against the Cardinals.

Head coach Jim Christian has his hands full with this rebuilding project. With nine freshman on the team, the Eagles were not expected to compete with the ACC’s top dogs this season. But one has to wonder if getting dominated night in and night out is going to hurt this young team’s long-term development.

The college game is unlike the professional ranks, where the worst teams get the first crack at choosing top talent from that year’s draft class. Whereas a terrible professional team can turn it around in just three or four years, it takes significantly longer to build a winner at a struggling college program. Christian doesn’t need this freshman class to win right away, but what he does need is for his young players to gain beneficial experience, repeat good habits, and eliminate major flaws from their games.

The more concerning thing than the losses for the Eagles has to be its youthful core losing interest and establishing negative habits. On a day when Louisville looked—at least in the first half—somewhat beatable, BC didn’t bring its A-game. Not only does that set back its current team, but a potential recruit who might have been watching that game would harp on BC’s seemingly indifferent attitude about its careless mistakes more than anything else.

It’s not about the wins right now—it’s about making steps in the right direction for 2017, 2018, and beyond. On Saturday against Louisville, however, BC only seemed to be going in reverse.

Featured Image by Timothy D. Easley / AP Photo

About Tom DeVoto 87 Articles
Tom is the Editor-In-Chief of The Heights Newsletter. He is also the A1 Editor of The Heights. You can follow him on Twitter @TLDeVoto.