On paper, we should have seen this coming. Boston College came into tonight’s game with a narrow victory at home over UNH and a blowout loss at Holy Cross. The Minutemen cruised to three comfortable victories, albeit against some pretty awful teams, but games in which the team won by double digits despite not shooting particularly well. It would be easy for the doubters to point to last year and say “here we go again,” as UMass’s 7-0 start came off the rails starting with a loss to a not-so-great BC team. But this year, BC will be fortunate to end the year “not-so-great.” They were picked unanimously to finish dead-last in the top-heavy ACC. They feature an absurd nine freshmen on the roster. And they’re a program that, truth be told, has never really been all that successful, not as much as their football team and certainly not even close to what they’ve done on the ice. Whereas the purists will always see UMass as a hoops school, basketball has always played third fiddle on the Heights.
But damn…who could’ve seen this coming?
Despite shooting a pedestrian 47.8% from the field (which, over the course of a season, would rank 78th in the nation at this point), despite getting outshot at the free throw line by a staggering 25-7 margin, despite nobody on the team really doing anything you could describe as “going off” (Chaz led in scoring with 16), the Minutemen still completely dominated the final three-quarters of the basketball game, only falling behind early on a couple of quick threes and some nice free-throw shooting by noted Eurotrash flopper Patrick Heckmann. From there on, it was a clinic in pressure defense, controlling tempo, hitting shots in transition, and never taking the foot off the gas pedal – all of which are things the Minutemen have notably lacked in the first few years of the Kellogg era. Shit, we haven’t seen a good old-fashioned beatdown like this since – gulp – the Travis Ford days. So far, “going ahead by like 25 and then cruising to a modest 12-15 point win” has been as close to a blowout as we can get under Kellogg, whether we’re playing an A-10 foe or AIC. Until tonight, that is.
Look, let’s not start thinking we’re Xavier all of a sudden. The Minutemen benefited from plenty of awful, awful BC turnovers, missed open shots, and defense and rebounding that could best be described as “voluntary,” against a team that looks like it’d fit in much better on a soccer field if they were at all in shape (which they clearly are not, based on how gassed UMass’s pace left them by the middle of the 2nd half). I don’t know what Donahue is trying to do with this team, unless he thinks a squad of Jiri Welsches has a chance of competing in the ACC, but whatever it is, it’s a serious work-in-progress right now.
But give credit where credit is due. After playing down to some shoddy competition in the first half of the Northeastern and NJIT games, the Minutemen grabbed this game by the throat early and, save for a brief run that got the Eagles to the low teens, never really let go. The fun thing is that I still don’t think we’ve seen all this team is capable of, but we did see what happens when Jesse and especially Riley manage to put together even an average game shooting the ball. Both guys played with a lot more confidence and, yes, better shot selection. Most impressive of all, in my estimation, was Cady Lalanne, who showed off big-time with some blocks, quality positioning on rebounds, and even a nice shooting touch. He’s clearly the most polished freshman of the DK era, and until we actually see Jordan Laguerre on a basketball court, I might even argue the most exciting. Seeing how much guys like Farrell, Putney, Sampson Carter and Vinson have improved in two years, I can see quite a bit of potential for young Cady.
Between blowing out BC on the hardwood and sending Kevin “Glenn Beck” Morris packing, thereby clearing the way for the football team to bring in an actual coach to guide them into the FBS era, it’s been an absolutely stellar day for this athletics program – yes, even good enough to soothe the headache of Saturday’s debacle in Lowell. (By the way, I literally woke up with a headache Sunday and I think it had more to do with what happened in Tsongas than anything that transpired down the street at Lowell Beer Works that night.)
The rest of the week brings potential, with hockey looking to get back on track in Vermont tomorrow night (if you ignore games-in-hand, they could move into a points tie for home ice tomorrow night! *rolls eyes*). And then we get to see basketball – nay, Chazketball – on national TV for three days in the Bahamas tournament. Florida State is a huge test for this program, for sure, and for all we know they’ll go right out and get embarrassed and the hater bandwagon will be full once again.
We’ll cross that bridge when it comes. For now, bask in the glory of a blowout win over BC. It doesn’t happen every day.