Jim Christian heads into his fourth season at the helm of Boston College firmly on the hot seat.
After going a combined 29-67 and 6-48 in ACC play over the past three seasons in Chestnut Hill, the Eagles have to show some kind of life this winter to grant Christian a fifth season.
The good news for Christian and the Eagles is that they’ve finally got a veteran core, with two of the top returning veteran guards in the ACC in Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman.
“The nucleus of our team has now played together. And I think year in and year out, we’ve added good pieces around them,” Christian said.
Robinson is the ACC’s highest-scoring returning player, coming off a sophomore season in which he finished fourth in the league at 18.7 points per game. He’s also one of the ACC’s top returning perimeter defenders, having finished fifth in the ACC last season with 55 steals.
Bowman was one of the ACC’s breakthough freshman a year ago. The former UNC football commitment shot a healthy 44.9 percent from 3-point range, averaged over 14 points an outing, and earned a spot on the ACC All-Freshman team.
“(Robinson) gives us a proven weapon. We know on any given night, he’s able to get 20-plus on anyone in the country. Bowman as well. That’s a really good place to start with the backcourt,” Christian said. “I feel good about that. We have guards.”
The Eagles got off to a fast 2-0 start, blowing out Maine and South Carolina State in their opening two contests. But things will get much tougher in about three weeks, when top-ranked Duke arrives in Conte Forum for a Dec. 9 ACC opener.
What will it take for the Eagles to be competitive in that game, and to make enough of a rise in the ACC standings to keep Christian’s job?
For starters, it will take more offensive diversification.
It can’t be entirely on Robinson and Bowman to score all the team’s points. While both are averaging 18 points through BC’s first two contests, more capable defenses will strive to choke each of them out of production.
It will be necessary for BC’s supporting cast, including transfers Deontae Hawkins and Jordan Chatman, along with freshman Steffon Mitchell, to emerge. If Hawkins, Chatman, and Mitchell can become reliable secondary scorers for the Eagles, the team will almost certainly win more than the two ACC games they won last winter.
“I think he’s just got to make the right plays,” Christian said of Robinson. “It’s not so much about his points. Maybe his points some nights will be high. Some nights his points won’t be as high. As long as he makes the right plays. We don’t need one guy to score for us. We have more well-rounded offensive players. He just has to make plays for them. His assist numbers should go up. His understanding should grow up. And that’s what’s going to help him grow and develop the way he wants to.”
“It’s not just him anymore,” Christian continued. “Now you’ve got Deonte Hawkins. Now you’ve got Ky Bowman. Now you’ve got Chatman. Steffon Mitchell, he’ll be an integral part of what we do. He’s worked unbelievably hard. He’s a good player. We have to develop the other (freshmen). We have better pieces around them (Robinson and Bowman).”
BC will really have to overachieve to return to the postseason. But a winning season for the first time since 2010-11 is possible if the supporting cast around Robinson and Bowman step up, and the two standout guards play as well as they did last season.