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Looking Ahead: #ThePath to the postseason for Boston College



Postseason Aspirations:

March is always a tough month to be a Boston College Basketball fan. In recent years, March has consisted of wrapping up the regular season with meaningless games, playing a game or two in the ACC tournament, and watching other teams play in the NCAA tournament. The Eagles have not qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 2009, when Tyrese Rice led the team in scoring, and Reggie Jackson was just a freshman. And while the Eagles are not particularly likely to make the Big Dance this year, there is at least some hope that they could make a run, which is far more than can be said for the past few seasons. Unless BC wins the ACC Tournament, their path to a tournament berth requires out-of-conference domination and a winning ACC record. 

 Last season without Quinten Post, BC went 6-5 before ACC play. But when Coach Grant got his star big man back on the court, the Eagles looked like a completely different team, going a respectable 9-11 in the conference. So if Post, and the rest of the Eagles’ squad, can remain healthy all season, the Eagles could see that third-year breakthrough that Grant has been harping on. With their upcoming matchup against Lehigh, the Eagles have a chance to finish their out-of-conference schedule at an excellent 9-2 record. This out-of-conference performance far exceeds what BC has done in past seasons, and keeps the window open for postseason play. If BC can continue this momentum into conference play, they are a strong candidate for a bid to the NIT Tournament, and could have an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament. 

Rest of the ACC:

Boston College’s tournament hopes will be determined by the rest of the ACC. If the conference has a down year and only gets five teams on the bracket, the Eagles will likely be on the outside looking in. But if the ACC performs well enough to get seven or eight teams in the Dance, now we’re talking. Seeing as the bulk of ACC play is yet to come, we have to rely on various ranking systems to determine where BC currently stacks up. This week’s AP Top 25 Poll includes 4 ACC teams: UNC (11th), Clemson (18th), Duke (21st), and Virgina (22nd). These four teams will likely occupy the top of the standings for most of the season, but the next 6-7 spots are completely up for grabs. 

As it stands now, Pitt, Virginia Tech, Miami, NC State, Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Boston College are all ranked between 40th and 83rd in the NCAA’s NET rankings. After BC, you have to look another 56 spots before you find Florida State. So, not there’s not much separating the middle of the ACC, and matchups between these teams could go either way. Coach Grant’s ability to win close games will ultimately decide if this team has any hope of qualifying for the tournament. 

AP Top 25 Poll (Courtesy of CBS) NCAA NET Rankings

Stats for Basketball Nerds:

Outside of the AP Poll and NET rankings, several advanced statistical models can give some more insight. Obviously, no model will be able to perfectly predict how BC will perform in the ACC, they can at least give fans an idea of where they should be. The two statitcal models I looked at were the popular KenPom rankings and lesser-known Haslametrics. As it currently stands in KenPom, BC is ranked 93rd out of 362, which is good enough for 11th out of 15 ACC teams. Based on BC’s adjusted efficiency margin (fancy word for rank), KenPom predicts that BC will win 8-9 games in the conference, which would about line up with last year’s ACC performance. An 8-12 ACC record is certainly not going to be enough to get the Eagles onto the bracket (though it might be enough for an NIT bid), many of those losses are on small margins, so a 12-8/13-7 record is not out of the question. 

Haslametrics is considerably higher on the Eagles than KenPom, and has them coming in at 55th in D-I and 7th in the ACC in “All-Play Percentage” (another fancy word for rank). Erik Haslam predicts that the Eagles will come out on top in some of those closer games, going 12-7 in their remaining 19 games. Depending on how competitive the rest of the ACC is, a 12-8 Conference record would likely at least get the Eagles in some March Madness disucssions.

Again, neither KenPom nor Haslametrics are gospel, and it’s important to remember that the games are played on the hardwood, not in the spreadsheets. If college basketball was perfectly predictable, there’d be no reason to play the games. Most BC fans would probably predict that the Eagles to finish somewhere between what the two models predict. But the fact remains that the middle of the ACC is wide open for the taking, and the Eagles certainly have the talent to put their name in the mix. 

KenPom Rankings Haslametrics Rankings

Best Case/Worst Case:

For BC to get their name on the bracket, they need a near-best-case scenario. Given the parity of the ACC, there are only two games that I’m chalking up as losses: January 13th at Clemson and February 10th at Duke. The Eagles are talented enough that they will have a shot to win every other game on their schedule. By no means am I saying that BC will finish with a 17-3 record in the ACC, but they should at least be in a position to win the rest of their games. Below, I’ve outlined my best-case scenario, likely scenario, and worst-case scenario for the Eagles’ remaining schedule. Having already dropped a winnable game to NC State, the best case scenario I see for BC is 13-7. To reach 13 wins, the Eagles have to dominate at home and steal a few on the road. This scenario assumes a healthy team, excellent execution in close games, and an ACC Player-of-the-Year type of season for Quinten Post.

Next, the most likely scenario that I foresee for the Eagles is 10 wins in the ACC. In this scenario, the Eagles take care of business against lesser teams such as Louisville, Notre Dame, and Florida State, and take a few other miscellaneous games. In this scenario, the Eagles beat who they’re supposed to, win some close games, and drop some heartbreakers. Since they performed so well out of conference, 9-10 wins in the ACC would likely be enough to earn a spot in the NIT, but not in the NCAA Tournament.

Lastly, I have the absolute worst case for the Eagles ACC schedule as 5 wins, and no postseason play. In this scenario, the Eagles might see some extended injuries to Post or Jaeden Zackery, or perhaps they struggle to execute late in games and are unable to close out several winnable games. Whatever, the case, the floor of this Eagles’ team is far higher than it has been in year’s past, and I struggle to see a scenario where Eagles’ fans see another 3-4 win ACC season. 

Closing Thoughts:

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, March Madness is a long shot for this Eagles team, but not at all an impossibility. While BC has dropped a couple of winnable games, the mere fact that BC is six weeks into the season, and a tournament berth is still on the table is as much as any Eagles fan could have wished for. But, first things first, the Eagles must take care of business against Lehigh this Thursday, before gearing up for a competitive matchup against Wake Forest on January 2nd. Due to the holiday break, the next two games in Conte likely won’t have many fans. But if the Eagles can get some momentum heading into that January 15th matchup against Notre Dame, you could be looking at some long lines to get in the building.

Scenarios for BC’s remining schedule (courtesy of Jack Seiberlich)

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Florida State 84, Boston College 76: Eagles struggle to defend Seminoles



Boston College fell to Florida State 84-76 Tuesday night in Tallahassee, as despite a quick start scoring-wise the Eagles struggled to defend a similarly-hot-handed Seminoles team that dropped the Eagles to 6-9 in conference play.

It was back-and-forth very early on, with the first missed shot of the game not coming until almost four minutes in. The first half ended in a high-scoring 43-43 knot.

Things stayed even until roughly the halfway mark of the second half when FSU went on a 10-0 run that gave them a 70-61 advantage, the largest lead of the entire game for both sides. That ended up being the deciding factor, as the Eagles were unable to get within less than eight from that point on.

BC had four players in double-figures for scoring-wise, getting just eight points from the bench. Jaeden Zackery led the way with 19 on 3-for-3 from 3-point range, while Mason Madsen hit four 3s and put up 14. Quinten Post tallied 15 with seven of those points coming from the charity strike and Devin McGlockton also put up 13 points. The lone starting five member not in double-digits was Claudell Harris, who went just 1-for-5 from beyond the arch inducing just seven points out of him.

Boston College will continue the road trip and take on NC State Saturday in Raleigh at 2:00 p.m. ET, with the Eagles hoping to avoid the double-digit mark of losses in ACC play. The Wolfpack are losers of three out of their last four, however.

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Takeaways: BC Defends Homecourt against Louisville and Miami



Mason Madsen hitting one of his seven threes. Photo Courtesy of Canes County


Last week, the Boston College Men’s Basketball team was able to defend home court twice: on Tuesday night against Louisville, and on Saturday afternoon against Miami. Late Tuesday night, the Eagles were able to overcome a sluggish start, and an empty Conte Forum, and beat the last-place Louisville Cardinals 89-77. The Eagles saw six players reach double figures in scoring, led by Claudell Harris Jr.’s 20 points,  Devin McGlockton’s 19 points, and Quinten Post’s 17 points. This win was especially crucial for BC, as they were coming off consecutive losses to FSU and Duke, and allowed the Eagles to stay in contact with the middle tier of the ACC. 

After taking down Louisville in a desolate Conte Forum, the Eagles returned to their home court on Saturday to a much different scene. With a much more fan-friendly tipoff time of 4PM, Conte played host to an excellent crowd for their matchup against Miami. And, to the delight of the Eagle-faithful, BC got off to a scorching hot start, taking an 18-7 lead early on. While the Hurricanes were able to even the score at halftime, and take as much as a five-point lead late in the second half, Mason Madsen’s hot hand, and Post’s dominance in the paint were enough to propel the Eagles to an 85-77 victory. 

Offensive Excellence:

After scoring just 62 against FSU and 65 against Duke, I was beginning to lose faith in Coach Grant’s offensive system. However, these past two games have been excellent offensive showings for the Eagles. Against Louisville, BC scored a remarkable 89 points on 56.7% from the field, and 47.8% from behind the arc. And it wasn’t that the Eags were knocking down uncharacteristically difficult shots. Grant’s offense was actually able to generate great looks for open shooters, racking up 21 assists in the process. 

While it might not have been surprising to see the Eagles rack up 89 points on the last place team in the ACC, it was certainly encouraging to see them follow up with a similar performance against Miami. In Saturday’s game, the offense put up 85 points on similarly efficient splits of 47.5% from the field and 50% (15-30!) from three. Madsen and Post led the way offensively, accounting for 15 of the Eagles’ 28 converted field goals. If Grant can keep the offense humming the way it has for the past two outings, each of the six games remaining on the schedule look very winnable. 

Madsen Madness:

Since being inserted into the starting lineup against Duke, Mason Madsen has been an absolute revelation for the Eagles. In the past three games, the Eagles are 2-1, with their lone loss coming away at Duke. Throughout that three game span, Madsen has led the Eagles in scoring, averaging 17 points per game. And the highlight of this stretch came in his 25-point performance against Miami, where he hit (possibly) the most important three-pointer of the Eagles’ season. 

Madsen absolutely torched the Hurricanes from behind the arc, knocking down a career-high seven three pointers en route to the win. With Madsen’s latest hot streak from three, he is now shooting 45.8% from beyond the arc, which is well above the 90th percentile in Division One. With Madsen now in the starting lineup, the Eagles now have three serious threats from behind the arc, with Post hitting 46.1% of his attempts, and Harris Jr. hitting 38.9% of his. The spacing and offensive flow of Grant’s new-look starting five is enormously better with Madsen in for Aligbe, but we will see if the Eagles can survive without Aligbe’s size and added rebounding. 

Defensive Concerns:

While the offense was clicking on all cylinders last week, I cannot help but be a bit concerned about the Eagles’ defense. In an interesting contrast to Grant’s first two seasons, where the Eagles hung their hats on their ability to defend, this iteration of the Eagles’ roster is much more capable offensively, but has shown some cracks on the defensive end. For example, BC gave up 47 first half points on 51% shooting against Louisville. While Louisville has shown some ability to score, there is no legitimate reason to allow the last place team in the ACC to run up the score like that. Thankfully, the Eagles woke up on defense in the second frame, only allowing 30 second half points. 

Next, against Miami, at times it felt like the Hurricanes could get whatever look they wanted on offense. The Hurricanes shot 56% in the first half, and frankly, it could have been much worse. The Eagles seemed flummoxed by the Hurricane’s pick and roll, and whenever Post was switched off of Miami’s Norchad Omier, it seemed to always result in an open shot. Though I will give Grant credit for switching to his “amoeba” defense down the stretch. While Miami was able to exploit the Eagle’s man-to-man defense, they struggled with the matchup-zone look in the waning minutes. BC’s defense down the stretch was the key to igniting their 17-4 run to end the game. 

Outlook on the Remaining Schedule:

Thanks to the Eagles’ 2-0 homestand, they are now in contact with the middle of the ACC. After falling to 13-10 (4-8 ACC) after Duke, they were in real danger of dooming themselves to the basement of the ACC. But, with eight teams within two games of each other in the ACC standings, the Eagles will have several opportunities to continue climbing the ladder. BC’s remaining schedule consists of road games against Florida State and NC State, a homestand against UVA and Pitt, and a pair of road games against Miami and Pitt.

The good news for the Eagles? All six of these games are extremely winnable. The bad news? All six of these games are also losable. The margin for error is razor thin in this final stretch of the regular season. But, if the Eagles can find a way to win 3-4 of these games, they could be in contention for a first round bye in the ACC tournament, and perhaps a bid to the NIT. 

What’s Next:

Boston College returns to action Tuesday night at 7PM, when they will take on the aforementioned Florida State Seminoles. After losing a gut-wrenching 63-62 game to the Seminoles in Conte Forum, the Eagles will be looking for revenge. This game also has severe implications for the ACC standings, as FSU holds a one-game lead over BC in the standings. The Seminoles open as 4.5-point favorites against the Eagles. 

A win would go a long way towards securing that first-round bye, but even more so for the energy surrounding the program. We just saw what a packed Conte Forum can look like against Miami. So it is imperative that the Eagles return home with some kind of momentum, and get fans invested in the team’s stretch run.

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Boston College 85, Miami 77: Mason Madsen hits career-highs in Eagles win over Hurricanes



Mason Madsen had a day to remember for Boston College Saturday, as he led the Eagles past Miami with a career-high seven 3-pointers and 25 points. BC won, 85-77, as they kept the momentum from a quick start all the way through.

The Eagles were ahead fast and early, jumping out to an 18-7 lead just five minutes into the ballgame. Miami eventually caught up to them though in a back-and-forth, high-scoring battle — the Hurricanes tied it at 29-29 with 7:41 to go in the first half. They battled until the end of the half, when it was tied 41-41 after 20 minutes of play.

It remained back-and-forth but Miami began to gain an edge about halfway through the second half. They then held on to a lead from the 12-minute mark all the way to the three-minute mark, but the Eagles’ deficit didn’t get further than four points away from the Hurricanes. A Claudell Harris Jr. layup with three minutes to go made it 74-73 Eagles, and they added on from there. Madsen knocked down a 3 before a pair of Devin McGlockton converted free throws put them in front by six with a minute to go, and they held on to that lead with a few baskets made from both sides to give BC the 85-77 victory.

Quinten Post had 23 for the Eagles, a big night for him after he had been struggling the past few outings, also knocking down a trio of 3-pointers. Harris Jr. had 15 while Jaeden Zackery added 11 to go along with seven assists. McGlockton picked up a team-best 10 rebounds.

BC moves to 6-8 in conference play Tuesday night in Tallahassee as they take on Florida State with a 7 p.m. ET tip. They continue the road trip with a matchup against the Wolfpack a week from today, as NC State plays hosts to BC next Saturday afternoon in the 2:00 p.m. ET slot.

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