GREENSBORO, N.C. — An 84-64 win over Georgia Tech in the opening round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on Thursday was another step in the rebuilding process for the Boston College men’s basketball team, and following the victory new athletic director Brad Bates gave coach Steve Donahue and the program a vote of confidence.
“You look at what Steve’s doing, how he’s building the program, he’s not just doing a short-term fix, he’s building a foundation,” said Bates. “You look at the youth with which he’s competing this year, you look at the performance today, you look at the body of work, and that’s how you look at the program, and administratively our responsibility is to provide him with the resources so we can realize his great vision for the program.”
Leaning largely on freshmen and sophomores, the Eagles were picked to finish last in the preseason poll. Twelve of their games were decided by 4 points or fewer and they absorbed several close losses.
But they jelled throughout the season, and their four-game winning streak is the current longest in the ACC.
Although it has been four years since BC has reached the NCAA Tournament, Bates said he understands how important patience is.
“You can’t panic,” he said. “In the same way that you can’t say, ‘Hey, we’re all the way there’ after a game like today, you can’t panic after a loss and say, ‘We can’t get over the hump.’ You’ve just got to study the body of work rather than take it through this emotional roller coaster that it is and look at all those elements that are contributing toward building a foundation for the future.”
The cushion that Miami gave itself by winning its first 13 ACC games made it easier for the Hurricanes to brush off losing three of their last five games and backing into the conference tournament as the top seed.
An NCAA Tournament bid is all but guaranteed for the ninth-ranked Hurricanes, whether they beat BC on Friday or make a quick exit.
The comfort is something they aren’t used to.
“I think our players are probably going to be a little bit more relaxed this week and knowing that even if we were to lose, we’re still going to be in the NCAA Tournament,” said Miami coach Jim Larranaga. “In years past, we never knew that. So, there was an awful lot of emphasis put on advancing and winning the [conference] tournament and guaranteeing yourself the automatic bid. And this will be the first year in my coaching career that I feel pretty certain we’ll be invited, even if we don’t win the tournament.”
Miami won both regular-season meetings with BC, escaping Conte Forum with a 60-59 win Jan. 16, then routing the Eagles, 72-50, Feb. 5 in Coral Gables, Fla.
While they have could make a case for the NIT should they not win the ACC tournament, the likelihood that the Eagles would accept an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com tournament seems slim.
“We’ve been invited to postseason tournaments right now,” Donahue said. “The NIT is a spectacular, hard tournament. To get invited to that, it’d be hard not to take that. Our goal right now is to get into the NCAA Tournament by winning [the conference tournament]. My feeling is, I don’t know if anything else really matters to our program at this point.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.