With Pitt's basketball game against Boston College tonight, I had the chance to catch up with Brian Favat of SB Nation's Eagles site, BC Interruption. As an aside, I haven't pumped this weekly, but Brian also runs SB Nation's ACC weekly power rankings, of which I generally try to partake. Be sure to head over there to see the weekly rankings, which generally come out on Mondays or Tuesdays (here's this week's rankings).
See Brian's answers to my questions below and head over there to see my answers to his questions regarding Pitt.
As the season has started to wind down, I've been thinking about this question a lot. I think the season has been a disappointment but only in the context of a) last season and b) given a moderately successful run in non-conference play.On the first part, I think fans have to put BC's 1-13 ACC start in context. Last year, in addition to Notre Dame and Syracuse -- BC's two permanent scheduling partners -- BC drew Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech twice. In fact, three of BC's four ACC wins came against teams that they faced twice (Virginia Tech x2 and Syracuse ... with Wake the fourth). This year, in addition to Notre Dame (much better from last year) and Syracuse, BC draws Pitt and Miami twice. Both of those teams are a significant step up from Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Combined with the fact that BC has yet to face Virginia Tech, Wake Forest or N.C. State at all this year, and you can start to put the conference record in greater context. Still, despite the awful W-L record, BC has been in a bunch of these games and the fact that the team hasn't given up on Jim Christian is a good sign for improvement down the road.As for the non-conference portion of the schedule, BC has some surprisingly good wins. Wins over New Mexico and Providence. Finally got the Harvard monkey off the program's back (BC had lost six straight to its cross-town rivals). Played Dayton and West Virginia tough, but let a game against a mediocre USC team get away from them. But I think that the team had some moderate early season success and some dece wins early on sets the fan base up for some disappointment once ACC play rolled around.And to expectations, I think this is roughly in line with where BC fans had this team pegged. Christian's first roster is simply light on talent and has thinned with injuries (Lonnie Jackson, freshman center Idy Diallo and Darryl Hicks were all expected to contribute this year). They continue to play hard and hang with the best of the ACC, but just don't have the talent or the numbers to play a full 40 minutes and win a lot of these games.
Personally I think the answer here is straightforward. The schedule got appreciably more difficult when ACC play started. There were a few very good wins mixed in the non-conference portion of the schedule (New Mexico, Providence, Harvard), but the bulk of BC's total wins this year have come against middle-of-the-road America East teams and other programs of their ilk.As I mentioned, BC doesn't have a whole lot of talent on the roster. I can't recall which game it was, but at one point the announcers commended BC and Jim Christian for playing hard and getting things done with Olivier Hanlan, a pair of grad transfers, chewing gum and duct tape. That fact along, combined with a few injuries, is probably the biggest reason why BC hangs with teams for 30 minutes but can't close them out in the end.
Regarding the question above, what's funny is that Hanlan didn't have many great offensive performances during a big stretch of BC's non-conference schedule. It's only been recently, during the ACC stretch run, that Hanlan's really come on strong with some dominant performances.That said, I don't think his stock has improved much year over year. The fact is Hanlan is a very good player on a very 'meh' team. He's probably still a second round draft pick and it's hard to see him coming out early if he isn't guaranteed first round money. Some have suggested he may go back to Europe for a year before trying his luck in the NBA the year after, but I'm not sure that route makes sense for him. The other option, I guess, is to graduate early and take a fifth year somewhere else.BC could obviously use him next year, and with a decent core of incoming freshmen coming in, perhaps Hanlan comes back and helps to mentor the young crop of BC players. At least that's what I'm hoping.
I'd say the vast majority of BC fans are not on board with the Christian hire. This group seems quick to pick nits over his performance this year, failing to really grasp what he has to work with this year (Olivier Hanlan and a bunch of band-aids). I mean, he's been forced to give significant non-garbage time minutes to not one but TWO walk-ons. When you compete in the ACC, especially with how loaded the league is at the top this year, it's not hard to see why he's having limited success this year.Personally, I don't describe to this school of thought. While I didn't love the hire, I'm more than willing to give Christian a pass this year given the hand he's been dealt. And there are signs of improvement. Christian went out and hired a staff with some major recruiting ties and major conference experience; something Donahue really missed on during his time on the Heights. We are already seeing gains in recruiting. Christian brought in a legit center; something Donahue couldn't do for three years. He's got more highly touted recruits, and more of them, than Donahue brought to BC over the last three recruiting cycles. The biggest improvement, at least in the short term, is with the energy level and on defense. This team hasn't really quit on Christian which is admirable given how the losses have piled up. They also play really good defense with respect to the level of talent on the floor; another thing Donahue's teams were not known for.
Man. The first BC-Pitt game was so long ago (and so many losses ago) that I'm having a hard time remembering the game. I vaguely recall that BC was able to limit Jamel Artis for much of the game. That's something a lot of teams haven't been able to do since. He's had some big games of late and I can't imagine BC will have the same success they had against him the first time around; especially now playing on the road.Pitt really, really needs this game so as to keep the NCAA Tournament bubble dreams alive. Just can't see the Panthers dropping this one. It's an ugly win, but it's a win for Pitt. Call it 69-61 with the two teams playing even for about a half before Pitt goes on a scoring run midway through the second.