Thanks to the return of its three top players from a team that won six of its last nine ACC games last spring, Boston College entered the new season amid optimism the program was poised for a breakthrough.
Only a week later, the enthusiasm has turned to desperation.
A season-opening overtime loss at improving but shorthanded Providence launched the spiral. A second-half defensive meltdown against surging UMass two days later deepened it. And the early woes became even more worrisome Thursday night when the Eagles blew an eight-point lead in the final four minutes and lost 95-92 at home to MAC contender Toledo.
All of the teams who have beaten Boston College are solid enough to play in the postseason this spring, but that doesn't make the Eagles' 0-3 start any less damaging. Their only path back to NCAA tournament contention is to climb out of that hole against a strong schedule riddled with challenges.
Still left on Boston College's non-conference schedule are a home game against Maryland, road tests at Harvard, USC and Purdue and neutral-court dates with VCU, Connecticut and either Washington or Indiana. The good news is the Eagles still have plenty of chances for quality wins. The bad news is they could easily be buried even before the start of play in a loaded ACC.
For Boston College to start winning some of those marquee games, it's not hard to figure out where the Eagles must improve.
Led by standouts Olivier Hanlan, Ryan Anderson and Joe Rahon, Boston College's offense has been among the most efficient in the nation so far this season. Unfortunately for the Eagles, insufficient size, length and athleticism has made their defense so porous that opposing teams have matched them score for score and then some.
Opposing teams are shooting 49.4 percent from the field against Boston College and are out-rebounding the Eagles by an average of nearly 12 per game. This isn't a new problem either for a program that ranked 285th in points per possession allowed and 245th in rebounding percentage last season.
The Eagles' identity under former Cornell coach Steve Donahue is always going to be a skilled, finesse team that prefers to out-execute and outscore opponents rather than out-muscle them. Nonetheless, Donahue is running out of chances to engineer a winning season, which means Boston College may need to get tougher on defense and on the glass in order to make it happen.
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