After a promising 3-0 start to the season, a very young Boston College men’s basketball team began to show its inexperience.
Over the holiday weekend, the Eagles traveled to California for the Wooden Legacy Tip-Off Tournament and showed what can happen to a predominantly freshmen team. The Eagles lost big to No. 3 Michigan State. There’s no shame in that. The Spartans very well might be the best team in the nation. However, losses to both UC Irvine and previously 0-7 Santa Clara were ugly.
With the tough road trip behind them, Jim Christian’s group will look to rebound in Conte on Wednesday night against Penn State in a game about more than just the record. Wednesday will mark the Eagles' return to the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, one of the best events each year in college basketball.
The team they will face, Penn State, is a team the Eagles have seen in this event twice before, splitting the contests. This year’s Nittany Lions squad is mature, with nine returning players. It largely relies on the three-headed attack of guard Shep Garner, forward Payton Banks, and senior leader Brandon Taylor.
Taylor is an undersized big man with a high motor, currently putting up 17 points and six rebounds per contest. The Eagles’ interior defense will have to play tough, and young guards will have to avoid turnovers as best they can on the biggest stage of their careers.
The ACC-Big Ten Challenge is a spectacle. It puts the two best conferences in the nation against each other on ESPN for the nation to see. These games take center stage for two nights in the world of college basketball.
Sadly, due to the nonsense that is conference reconfiguration, these two leagues have an uneven number of teams, and one ACC school must sit out each year. In past years, this had been determined by worst record the previous year; last year, that method was scrapped, but still managed to choose BC to sit out, despite not being the team with the worst record from the prior season.
The Eagles can no longer afford to have this sort of reputation surrounding their basketball program. BC has owned this event in the past; it's 7-2 all time in the challenge, yet was still disrespected last year.
It is time to change things, and what better stage to flip the script than Conte’s first ACC-Big Ten Challenge game since 2011?
That said, the script can’t change without the students. The coaching staff has done its job. The Eagles have a team of ten new faces. They’re young, exciting, athletic, talented and entertaining. However, if Superfans can’t show up to game’ like Wednesday night’s, all this talent won’t stay.
Look just at the past two years: Joe Rahon, Ryan Anderson, Lonnie Jackson, and Will Magarity, all very important players for the Eagles during their time at BC, left the program to head to other schools. This doesn’t happen at schools like Pitt, Indiana or Maryland. Even in down years, students are at each game and players feel more loyalty to the university.
Don’t complain that the team isn’t good enough to show up, because this team is loaded with talent. BC needs students to show up and create the environment that will keep talent around and draw in more. Conte had that intensity in the 2000’s—let’s bring it back.
Wednesday night’s game isn’t just about the Eagles jumping back above .500. It’s about BC stepping up on a big college basketball stage and SuperFans helping restore the reputation of a program that has faltered in recent years because of reasons both on the court and in the seats. Let’s make a change for the better on Wednesday night.
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