It would be indiscreet at this point to steal “The Path” from Boston College football, what with its recent popularity explosion. But then, BC basketball has its own path (avenue? gateway?) to salvation, too, otherwise known as its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2009.
The avenue/gateway for the dukes of Earl began with an exclamation point Monday night at Conte Forum, an impressive 89-70 win over Fairfield. Consider that a year earlier, the Eagles had to walk barefoot over a hibachi to finally slay Cornell at the buzzer.
And this is where we begin.
Other programs in other outposts might fit into a national media narrative that suggests college basketball is a “one month season.” Wake them up when March Madness begins. The regular season is a four-month slog that merely determines who gets seeded where.
Not so much at Boston College. Every game matters. And a game such as Monday’s, which might have generated a yawn during the Bagley/Adams/Curley/Bell/Smith/Dudley days, was far more significant than the calendar and weaker opponent suggests.
The avenue/gateway for BC begins here: The Eagles, who figure to be a bubble team even if all goes well this season, cannot lose to inferior opponents. Nothing else kills a tournament resume faster than what we’ve seen in recent years, the home losses to Albany, Maine and New Hampshire, among others. And so while Fairfield hardly qualifies a sexy victory, it would have been a devastating defeat, even this early in the season. This is why they all count.
In the old days, making the tournament for BC required three things: Twenty overall wins, a winning league record and a quality win outside the conference. But now in today’s analytical revolution, many more factors are involved. The old “who did you beat and where did you beat them?” has company alongside “adjusted offensive efficiency” and deep dives into strength of schedule.
(Win valuable prizes if you can provide your humble narrator with the contextual significance of “adjusted offensive efficiency” and how it relates to tournament qualification.)
But that’s a rant for another day.
The point is that as “top 50” wins enhance a resume, “bottom 100/150” losses kill them. So while the Eagles will have much work to do once conference play begins, they must provide the foundation in November and December by keeping the avenue/gateway spotless.
BC has a chance to earn quality nonconference wins against Creighton and St. John’s. There are toughies against Colorado State and at Vanderbilt. And a home game against Harvard that has the potential to feel more uncomfortable than hemorrhoids. Losses in those games wouldn’t necessarily be killers. But all the others? Oy.
One way BC can avoid the annual inexplicable loss is to make Conte Forum a hellhole for opponents. We’re all familiar with the “Conte Morgue” thing. Makes you wonder whether past sleepless atmospheres have contributed to losing. The good news is that nearly 5,000 showed up Monday night, many students in their hard hats, maintaining the current football/hockey vibe of outstanding student support this season.
“Big time,” BC center Quinten Post said of the atmosphere. “Our media team and our marketing team did a great job of advertising the game. I think there's a certain hype around our program this year. I think people know and people expect that this is going to be our breakout year. That's how the team feels. That's how I feel and that's how coach (Grant) feels.
“And I think you can kind of feel it in the air. The fans were great tonight. We had a lot of people show up. I hope that the next home game we have even more people show up and that we can turn Conte into a really hard place to play.”
The Eagles took about as positive of a Step One as possible Monday night, mostly because 1) they didn’t lose; and 2) they inhaled an inferior opponent. It’ll satisfy all those esoteric analytical platforms that determine postseason fates.
Too early to be talking postseason in early November for a program that hasn’t danced in 14 years? Au contraire. BC basketball has a path, too. And happily, it’s clear for the moment.
Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and member of BC’s class of 1990. He may be reached at email@example.com or @bcgenius