ACC Basketball Preview: Boston College

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2015-16 Boston College record: 7-25 (0-18 ACC)

Things were bleak on the hardwood in Chestnut Hill last season and while the picture might not be too much brighter this year, it should develop faster.

The Eagles lose the top scorer from last season in Eli Carter (16 PPG) and the top rebounder and third leading scorer in versatile big man Dennis Clifford (9.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG).

Still, a quicker pace is the focus for a team that struggled to find its footing with major roster turnover during Jim Christian’s first two seasons.

“We’re going to be pushing it at people on offense, and it’s going to be fun to watch. It’s going to be really high-paced,” guard Jerome Robinson said during the ACC’s Operation Basketball.

Robinson returns after a strong freshman campaign. He finished second on the team in scoring with 11.7 points plus 4 rebounds and 3 assists per contest. He also shot 37.1 percent from outside, but he’ll be the focus of opposing defenses this season.

Two fellows sophomores will have to show progress in order to take some of the pressure off Robinson’s shoulders. A pair of 6’7″ forwards flashed potential last season, but A.J. Turner and Ervins Meznieks will need to factor in even more.

Turner was the team’s fourth leading rebounder (3.6 RPG), and fourth leading scorer (4.8 PPG) before his season was derailed by injury. Meznieks is much further along physically, listed at 230 pounds versus just 188 for Turner. Both will have to rebound and they’ll get a hand from graduate transfer Mo Jeffers.

Jeffers was a two-year starter at Delaware where he averaged 5.2 points and 4.8 rebounds last season in addition to blocking 32 shots, which was good for sixth-best in the CAA. The 6’9″, 240-pound Jeffers gives BC a big boost along a thin front line.

Connar Tava is also a graduate transfer from Western Michigan. He missed all of last season with a broken foot, but in 2014-15 he was second in scoring for the Broncos with 12.2 PPG which was good for sixth best in the Mid-American Conference. He led the Broncos in rebounding (6.2), field goal percentage (.521) and assists (3.3).

“He’s a guy that just plays the game the right way. He’s not an overly athletic guy, but he’s smart and tough and understands how to win,” Jim Christian said regarding Tava.

While it’s just a temporary fix, these transfers should provide a nice boost across the board for the Eagles while providing some veteran leadership. A faster pace on both ends of the floor requires a lot of bodies, and on paper at least, the Eagles have the depth to do so.

Ty Graves and and Ky Bowman are both freshmen guards who will run the offense at least some of the time and attempt to play pesky defense.

“We haven’t really had a point guard in my two years,” Christian said.

“We played Olivier [Hanlan] there and Eli [Carter] there, who were both more scoring guards, and now with Ky Bowman and Ty Graves, we have two point guards in our program, two fast, athletic, tough kids who really can change the mentality of what we do, especially on the defensive end of the floor.”

The schedule starts with some easy wins but quickly gets tougher. Non-conference dates with Kansas State, Auburn, Harvard, and Providence could all be losses before a January ACC run that’s as brutal as any in the country.

The Eagles play No. 19 Syracuse on New Year’s Day, then travel to top-ranked Duke six days later. A week after that, BC faces Syracuse again followed by No. 8 Virginia and No. 6 North Carolina. That’s a rough week.

Looking at the whole picture, it will be tough for Jim Christian to make any major headway this season, but an improvement on last year’s record both overall and in conference is certainly within reach.

I expect Boston College to break into the win column in ACC play at least once, with the best chance coming at Georgia Tech February 11. This roster feels better top to bottom than those from the last couple of seasons and any kind of increase in tempo will be a welcome site to the brave souls who attend non-hockey events in the Conte Forum. Double-digit overall victories are even possible in a season that will make an important impression on BC’s new athletic director.

Perhaps Jim Christian put it best.

“Like I like to tell a lot of people, I think we’re much more talented and much better. What that equates to in this phenomenal league is yet to be seen.”
 

Follow me on Twitter@BestCates and follow @InsideTheACC for more Atlantic Coast Conference coverage.

 

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