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Mid-Season Report Cards

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Introduction:

After a tough road trip for Boston College Men’s Hoops, the Eagles now sit at 10-6 on the year (1-4 in ACC Play). With 15 regular season games to play, and at least one ACC tournament game, the Eagles are now halfway through their guaranteed schedule. So, I thought that it would be appropriate to give a midseason report card, and give some brief thoughts on each player’s performance thus far. The Eagles have more talent on this season’s roster than they have had in years, but have not played up to their potential so far in conference play. After getting off to a fantastic 9-3 start, BC has hit a bit of a skid, dropping three of their last four. With some recent frustrating losses to Wake Forest and Syracuse, NCAA Tournament hopes are slipping away, and an NIT bid is no longer a given either. 

In this “report card”, I will evaluate Coach Grant, and the ten rotation players based on their performance this season relative to preseason expectations, as well as improvements over last season. Now, let’s get into the evaluations below.

Report Cards:

Coach Grant: C+

As mentioned in the introduction, this version of the Eagles’ basketball team has more talent than in either of Grant’s first two seasons. So, it was not overly surprising that they got off to such a hot start to the season. Grant had his squad showing flashes of tournament potential, however, the first five ACC games have left much to be desired. The most striking issue is the lack of late game execution. In four of their five conference games, BC had leads late in the second half. And to only win one of these games is far from ideal for a team that came into the season with tournament aspirations. Grant has done a phenomenal job of establishing a culture that resonates with fans, but some of his in-game habits leave much to be desired. 

Jaeden Zackery: B+

Through 16 games this season, Jaeden Zackery has continued his gritty style of play that he showed in his first two seasons with the Eagles. Zackery has seen a rise in offensive production, and continued his stellar defense. Compared to last season, Zackery is averaging more points, rebounds, and assists; averaging fewer turnovers; and is shooting more efficiently from the field. Zackery’s scoring increase is even more impressive, considering Claudell Harris Jr.’s ascension to the Eagles’ clear second option, and Devin McGlockton nearly doubling his scoring average from last season. 

However, Zackery saw his production take a considerable dip in the first four games in ACC play, averaging just 8.3 points on 26.3% from the field through these games. Zackery even went scoreless against Syracuse, his first time doing so in an Eagles uniform (not last season at Virginia Tech, when Zackery left early with an injury). But, Zackery did have an efficient 18 points against Clemson. So, despite the loss, hopefully this game helps Zackery return to his normal, gritty and efficient self. 

Claudell Harris Jr.: A

Joining Zackery in the back court, Claudell Harris Jr. has emerged as the Eagle’s most versatile scoring option. Coming into this season, there was a lot of mystery surrounding the Charleston Southern transfer. There were rumors of Harris Jr. dominating practices and scrimmages, but many fans had a tough time believing that the new guard would be able to replace the hole left behind by Makai Ashton-Langford. However, Harris Jr. has certainly exceeded my expectations, averaging 15.7 points per game on 49% from the field and 43% from behind the arc. Harris Jr. averaged over 17 points per game as the first option at Charleston Southern, but seeing his scoring translate to the ACC is extremely encouraging. If the junior guard can keep up his scoring and efficiency, he and Zackery would form one of the more dynamic back courts in the ACC. 

Prince Aligbe: C

Prince Aligbe has been one of the more confounding storylines for the Eagles this season. The sophomore wing has started all 15 games that he’s appeared in, but has struggled to find a role that suits him, particularly on the offensive end. Aligbe has seen slight increases across the box score when compared to his freshman season, averaging 6.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 23.7 minutes per game. However, Aligbe has struggled to shoot the ball, converting at just a 28.3% rate on shots not at the rim. But, when Grant goes small, and plays Aligbe in the front court, rather than the wing, Aligbe seems to find more success. 

Outside of efficiency on the offensive end, Aligbe provides the length and athleticism that is necessary to compete in the ACC. But as it currently stands, when Aligbe is played on the wing, teams just do respect his shooting ability, and it severely limits the Eagles’ offense. If you believe in regression to the mean, as I do, you would hope that Aligbe’s shooting percentages go in the right direction. If he can approach last year’s 27.1% mark from three, teams would at least have to guard him on the perimeter, which would leave more room for Quinten Post and Devin McGlockton to operate. At the end of the day, the reason I’m giving Aligbe a C, rather than a lower grade, is that he’s about matched his averages from last season, and has shown that he can be effective when played in a role that better suits his skillset. 

Devin McGlockton: A+

So far this season, Devin McGlockton has been an absolute revelation. Last season, as a red shirt freshman, McGlockton surprised everyone by playing his way into the starting lineup. Yet, he seems to have taken an even larger leap this season. The big man has gained more confidence working in the post, and has even extended his range beyond the three-point line. McGlockton is the Eagles’ fourth-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, averaging 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds in his 28.4 minutes per game. Yet, in conference play, the sophomore stepped his game up to an even higher level. Through the Eagles’ five ACC games, McGlockton is averaging 15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, highlighted by a 30-piece on Georgia Tech.

There’s not much to take issue with from McGlockton’s performance so far this season. Despite his increase in production, the sophomore big man has kept the same intensity on the defensive end and on the glass. If I had to nitpick one thing, it would be that McGlockton tends to find himself in foul trouble a bit too much, and that it can limit his time on the floor. But, other than occasional foul trouble, the Eagles could not possibly ask more of McGlockton. So Eagles fans should hope that he can keep up his level of scoring and efficiency. 

Quinten Post: A-

After earning the ACC’s Most Improved Player last season, Quinten Post seemed poised for an All-ACC type of season. And, in the very first game of the season, Post gave credence to the preseason hype, putting up a ridiculous 31 point/11 rebound/4 block stat line against Fairfield. Post continued to dominate out-of-conference opponents, including a six-game stretch where he averaged 21 points and 9.3 rebounds. 

After his scoring outbursts to start the season, Post began to see a slight dip in his scoring, but a noticeable increase in his playmaking abilities. Since the backbreaking overtime loss to NC State, Post has “only” averaged 12.4 points per game, but has also had three games with 7 or more assists. With the amount that the Dutch big man is doubled in the post, his ability to find the open man will be key to this Eagles’ team’s success.  

The only reason that I have not graded Post in the A/A+ is pure, unadulterated recency bias. Against Syracuse, for the first time in nearly two years, Post was held scoreless in a game where he did not get injured (see last season’s Georgia Tech game). Having the added context of the illness that kept him, Aligbe, and Mighty out of the Clemson game, it’s pretty likely that Post was playing through an illness against Syracuse. So, fans should hope that he can recover from his illness soon, and return to his dominant play

Mason Madsen: A-

Mason Madsen has not been shy about his physical and mental struggles from the past couple years. Last season, in his first with the Eagles, Madsen was struggling through an autoimmune disease, and his shooting percentages suffered for it. In the 2022-23 season, Madsen averaged 5.8 points on just 34.9% from the field, and 30.3% from three. However, after taking medication to address his disease, Madsen is producing more in fewer minutes. So far this season, Madsen is averaging 6.8 points on much improved shooting splits of 45.5% from the field and 48.9% from three. Madsen has had inconsistent playing time this season, but has played his role just about perfectly. He’s been taking open shots, competing on defense, and doing all the little things in his limited playing time. 

Donald Hand Jr.: B-

Last year, Donald Hand Jr. only saw 14 minutes of playing time before unfortunately tearing his ACL against Detroit Mercy. So, obviously, there was much anticipation to see what the Virginia Beach product could do over the course of a full season. The redshirt freshman has certainly shown flashes of offensive prowess, with six games of 9 or more points. However, after a tough five-game stretch, Hand Jr. has not been terribly efficient from the field. Hand Jr. is shooting just 36.5% from the field, but a solid 35.6% from three. The young guard has certainly proven that he can be a spark off the bench, but is not quite shown enough to earn a larger role yet. 

Chas Kelley III: C+

Chas Kelley III was rumored to be one of the Eagles’ best players in their European tour this past summer. So, personally, I was hoping to see a big improvement on his freshman year campaign, where he averaged 2.9 points and 1.2 assists in 14.7 minutes per game. Unfortunately, that big improvement has not entirely materialized, as Kelley III is averaging 3.9 points and 1.5 assists on 35.4% shooting in 13.9 minutes per game. These scoring splits would not be all that bad, if he wasn’t shooting 35.4% from the field and 25.7% from three. 

Kelley III has not quite had the production that he would have hoped for, but he did come up huge in some key moments this season. Against St. John’s, Kelley III contributed a season-high 13 points in the Eagles’ most impressive win of the season. And against Georgia Tech, Kelley III was a huge part of the Eagles’ comeback effort, contributing 8 crucial points. Kelley III has shown that he can be a key contributor on a good team, but is just waiting to make the jump to that next level. 

Armani Mighty: B

With the departures of TJ Bickerstaff and CJ Penha, there was a huge hole left in the Eagles front court. When it was discovered that freshman forward Jayden Hastings would redshirt the season, the bulk of the front court bench minutes fell to Armani Mighty. Many fans, myself included, were worried that Mighty was not ready to be a rotation player in the ACC. However, Mighty has proven that he can hold his own, for the most part, when he subs in for Post. Mighty is only averaging 1.1 points and 1.1 rebounds in his 6.1 minutes per game, but he has clearly added a significant amount of muscle, worked on his footwork, and improved on his free throw shooting. While Mighty is not going to be the focus of any opposing team’s scouting report, he has played his role as well as anyone could have reasonably expected. With another year of development, perhaps he can emerge as a more regular rotation piece for the Eagles. 

Elijah Strong: A

Last, but certainly not least, fan-favorite Elijah Strong deserves some love. The true freshman forward came into the season with very low expectations from the Eagles’ fanbase, and has emerged as one of the more beloved players on the team. In his limited opportunities, Strong has brought an infectious energy and hustle that fans cannot help but appreciate. Strong has only appeared in 10 games this season, and has averaged 2.8 points and 0.9 rebounds in 7.3 minutes. Prior to the last game against Clemson, Strong had only seen the floor for 2 minutes in ACC play. But, when Post, Aligbe, and Mighty were all sidelined with illness, Strong stepped up in their absence, putting up a solid 14 points and 4 rebounds in 28 minutes. When asked about Strong’s performance after the Clemson game, Grant gave a very thoughtful answer, calling the freshman forward a “winning player” and indicating that Strong could get some increased opportunities as the season progresses.  

Final Thoughts:

After a fantastic out-of-conference performance, a subpar start to ACC play has obviously frustrated the Eagles’ fanbase. Grant’s team has shown tournament-team potential, but bad losses are pushing the Tournament further and further out of the picture. Getting selected to the NCAA Tournament was always going to be a longshot, but it is difficult to see the possibility of Going Dancing slipping away so early in the season. 

Fortunately for the Eagles, there are still 15 regular season games remaining, and plenty of opportunity for them to flip the script. The Eagles clearly have the talent to be in the top half of the conference, but in-game execution and decision making needs to improve. If they want to keep postseason (NIT or NCAA) hopes alive, Eagles cannot afford to lose many more close games. So, hopefully the Eagles can step up in this upcoming stretch, which includes some extremely winnable games against Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Florida State.

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

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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

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

Recap:

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

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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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