CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Steve Donahue knew this wouldn’t be pretty, but surely he didn’t think there would be something like this. A string of losses, sure. That might still come. But back-to-back blowouts, including Monday’s thumping at the hands of UMass in the Commonwealth Classic?
As UMass eventually built the lead up to 30, you could see more than just BC getting caught up in UMass’ speed. The Eagles looked like a team that didn’t have confidence, getting tentative at times offensively. The offense suffered greatly, aided by UMass’ length as that frustrated the Eagles on the glass, especially at the offensive end.
The Eagles are just 1-2, but both losses have been by large margins as they lost by 22 to Holy Cross on Friday. They weren’t especially impressive in the season opener, either, but you could at least chalk some of that up to the fact that it was their season opener. But there’s no questioning the youth on this team, and perhaps more importantly, that responding to adversity like this won’t be easy. Donahue’s opposite number on Monday night knows about it.
“We’ve all been there when you’ve got new guys that haven’t played and you’re trying to put them in, and the next guy doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do, either,” said UMass head coach Derek Kellogg. “It just takes time. They don’t have anybody older to really help them get through the kind of rough times.”
It’s one thing to have a young team, but this Eagles team is different because the roster has turned over so quickly. With no player left over from the Al Skinner era in Donahue’s second season at the helm, this team doesn’t have much to draw on from the past, at least in college. Ryan Anderson, one of the freshmen, simply draws on his high school experience at Long Beach Poly, one of the better schools in that area.
“I’ve just been referencing my high school days, when my freshman year we weren’t a very good team, either,” said Anderson. “Growing up all the way to our senior year, we became a powerhouse, and that’s what we’re going to try to do here.”
Donahue said that the team is trying to come up with some kind of accountability. When there’s not much upperclass leadership simply because there’s so little in the way of upperclassmen on the roster, that becomes more difficult. It means these young players have to grow up faster than they would in some other situations.
Take freshman point guard Jordan Daniels, for instance. In 24 minutes against UMass, he had three assists and six turnovers while going 1-5 from the field. Donahue noted that it would be different if Daniels could be backing up Reggie Jackson, who was on hand for Monday night’s game, instead of having to start and initiate the offense. His minutes would probably be down, but so, too, would the turnovers. There would also likely be less concern about how the young man is from a confidence standpoint.
A team is going to go through adversity during games and certainly over the course of the season. Right now, Boston College is experiencing that in big doses. The big question is how they will respond to it as they get ready to head out west for the 76 Classic in Anaheim. There, they open with a veteran Saint Louis team that knocked off Washington on Sunday and would likely face Villanova should they knock off the Billikens.
After winning a third straight Ivy League title a couple of years ago, Donahue said that you don’t envision something like that. In a similar vein, you don’t envision something like Monday night’s thumping even when you know it will be a challenging season. The former was the result of the work done by the teams he put together and coached; the latter is the unfortunate result from a team severely lacking in experience just to get through a challenging time at the college level.
This season wasn’t expected to be one where the Eagles are a sure NCAA Tournament team. With that, fans are probably not disappointed in the bottom line. But the idea was that this would be a year to watch the team grow, and right now that’s probably proving difficult for the Eagle faithful.