Final Four or bust for Boston College. Wait ... What?
BOSTON (AP) — Boston College hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in a decade, and when coach Jim Christian looked ahead to this season he naturally wanted a reasonable goal for the program.
So he picked ... the Final Four?
“People may say I’m crazy. I think if you don’t approach it that way, then what are you trying to do? What are we doing?” Christian said at the Eagles’ media day to preview his sixth season on the BC bench. “Why would we limit ourselves? Play it out.
“Stop thinking about this, stop thinking about that. Stop thinking about trying to get to the tournament. We need to try to get to the Final Four,” he said. “There are 15 teams. Why are we different? We need to come out here and try to get to the Final Four like everybody else.”
It’s a lofty goal for a program that went 14-17 (5-13 Atlantic Coast Conference) last season, but Christian spent some time this summer visiting Chris Beard at Texas Tech and one of the things he learned down in Lubbock was that things can turn around quickly. The Red Raiders went 6-12 in the Big 12 three years ago, then went to the Elite Eight in 2018 and the NCAA championship game last season.
“There’s going to be a Texas Tech” this year, Christian said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we’re going to go to the Final Four, but we are going to pursue it with everything we have. Stop listening to predictions, stop listening to whatever and (say) ‘Why can’t we do that?’”
Christian took over in Chestnut Hill in 2014 and went 0-18 in the Atlantic Coast Conference in his second season. They snapped the streak the next year, winning two league games, and made a big jump two years ago, when they won seven times in the ACC and had 19 wins overall — the only winning record of Christian’s tenure.
But last year was a step back, as the Eagles failed to find a consistent scorer to replace Jerome Robinson. Wynston Tabbs showed promise, but he went out with a knee injury in January and will miss this season as well.
Also gone are Ky Bowman (19 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4 assists), who went undrafted and signed with the Golden State Warriors. Jordan Chatman (13.2, 2.2, 2) graduated, leaving senior Nik Popovic (14.5 points, 7.1 rebounds) as the only one of the team’s top four scorers from last year to return.
“I was just a child when I came here. I was not a mature guy,” Popovic said. “I went to becoming somebody that can actually play, create and be a leader.”
Derryck Thornton inherits the job as point guard with Tabbs out for the season following left knee surgery. As a freshman last year, Tabbs started 14 games, averaging 13.9 point, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists.
“Derryck is a true point guard, and we’ve never had that before until Wynston came. And Wynston didn’t stay long,” Popovic said. “When we learned he wasn’t going to play it was like ‘What now?’ And then Derryck came in, and it was like relief for us.”
Thornton started his career at Duke, then transferred to Southern California and came to BC this season as a graduate transfer.
“BC’s had some tough years and so have I,” he said. “I feel like I’m really rolling now as a player. I think this season is almost going to be comeback season, not only for myself but for the whole program. We have so much young talent and returners that have talent. I think we’re going to shock a lot of people.”
ALL ABOUT THE HAMILTONS
Jairus Hamilton, who is 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, was the first top 100 recruit to commit to BC since Craig Smith in 2002. As a freshman last year, he averaged 5.6 points and four rebounds. His older brother, Jared, is a 6-foot-4 guard who transferred from Georgia Southern last semester became eligible midseason, averaging six points.
Christian said Jairus Hamilton “is still trying to make the game a little simpler for himself.”
“It’s really about understanding the game,” Hamilton said. “I took a lot of time watching film ... understanding the time and the decision making of the game at that time. I feel like I’ve really grown on that.”
The ACC schedule rotation brings two games against Duke this year, and two against defending champion Virginia.
It’s the first time the Eagles will double up against those two powers since 2012-13.
“As a competitive person as I am, I love that,” forward Steffon Mitchell said. “You can’t come to the ACC if you’re not looking forward to those games. Those are games that everybody wants to play in. ... You get up for those game every time. It doesn’t matter how you’re feeling or how you’re playing. The emotions of it are just special.”