By Mychal Hunter
Its time to continue the preseason prediction countdown. Its hardly surprising that the Boston College Eagles arrive at #14 on my list. The pride of Chestnut Hill has had only one winning season since Al Skinner was let go (sarcastic clapping) and zero since the 2010-11 season.
The Eagles finished up at 9-23 (2-16 ACC) and ended the season on a 15 game losing streak. On top of that in the off season fourth leading scorer, small forward AJ Turner (8ppg, 3rpg, 3apg) transferred to Northwestern.
As if that wasn’t enough, they took an additional kick to the undercarriage when Illinois State graduate transfer Deontae Hawkins committed to Jim Christian only to renege on that commitment a couple weeks later. Hawkins would have been a great addition to the Eagles as he could have easily slid right into the front court and given them a legit stretch 4. The 6’8 220 forward averaged 14ppg 6.5 rpg while shooting 44% from deep and 78% from the free throw line. Maybe the most important thing Hawkins could have brought with him was a coming from a culture of winning. During his time at Illinois State the Redbirds won 68 games. I don’t really believe that’s more important, but its something that probably needed to be said.
Also gone are graduates Mo Jeffers and 2016 graduate transfer Connor Tava who combined to provide 12 points and 11 rebounds per game.
The change of heart by Hawkins along with the Jeffers graduation leaves only John Carlos Reyes and Nik Popovic as the only non walk-on post players with any D1 experience.
Recruiting has not been exactly friendly this off season either, as BC is the only school in the ACC to have an average stars of less than 3 with their 2017 class. Most coaches will tell you that its not rankings that matter, but landing players that fit their system. To that I say sure, but eventually someone has to make shots.
Contrary to popular belief there are some reasons for optimism in Chestnut Hill. This team is going to score the ball. Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman both return for the Eagles after they combined to score 33 ppg in 2016-17. Also returning is former BYU Cougar Jordan Chatman who, while only averaging 8.6 ppg last year on the season, showed he is capable of lighting up the scoreboard with 30 against Virginia Tech (on the road) and 22 against Wake Forest. He finished last season on a strong note scoring double digits in 3 of his last 4 games.
While recruiting has been slow for Jim Christian he was able to strike gold once before with Ky Bowman. He will be looking to do the same this year with big man Luka Kraljevic, a 3 star recruit out of Indiana.
It is possible the gold was already on the roster however, with plenty of minutes to be seized in the BC front court, Nik Popovic is my pick to make the most of them. In 14 minutes per game last year the 6-11 center averaged 6.1 poings and 3.5 rebounds. If somehow Christian can get 25-28 minutes from Popovic he will have a legit front court player. Those minutes might be difficult to come by as Nik also averaged 2.4 fouls in those 14 minutes.
Robinson will once again lead this team and look to improve on a season where he saw his scoring jump 6.9 ppg while only seeing an increase of 0.6 minutes per game.
I think Jim Christian is a pretty good coach. He has succeeded at both Kent State and Ohio. He had a less impressive stop at TCU and has won only 6 conference games in 3 years in the ACC. At some point he is going to do well with another mid major and that program will be lucky to have him, but…this is the ACC. A zero win conference season and a single digit win total in the following year doesn’t exactly inspire confidence and BC is possibly the toughest job in the ACC as far as recruiting goes.
This Eagles squad is going to score some points and will surprise a couple ACC teams this season when they get hot, but ultimately they have no front court depth in a league that has a lot of talented front court players. While I think Popovic can become a nice player, guys like Colson, Carter, Lammers, Huell, and Thompson are probably going to get him into foul trouble early and eat him up.
Projected Starting 5: Jerome Robinson, Ky Bowman, Jordan Chatman, Nik Popovic, and another person who plays basketball