It’s not hyperbole to say that the 2022-23 Boston College men’s basketball season will be the program’s most highly-anticipated campaign in at least a decade.
After all, even the 2017-18 team that made the NIT did not have many expectations going in. That group was coming off a 2-16 ACC slate, and, although they returned the dynamic guard pairing of future NBA players Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson, the Eagles were paper thin, as far as depth is concerned. They caught the nation’s attention when they upset top-ranked and then-undefeated Duke in Conte Forum.
This time around, however, BC has a good bit of buzz in the offseason. After the ACC was dragged by the national media for much of last season, the conference’s success in the NCAA Tournament — most notably landing three teams in the Elite Eight — has shed a new light on members’ performances during the 2021-22 season.
In the first year of the Earl Grant era, BC kicked off the league schedule by thumping an NCAA Tournament-bound Notre Dame team, which it later went toe-to-toe with in South Bend. And, despite a pair of five-game losing streaks, the Eagles never really gave in. Instead, they finished with five ACC wins during the regular season, even stringing back-to-back victories against Florida State and North Carolina State.
They pulled off that feat again in the ACC Tournament, making their first quarterfinal appearance since 2017-18. BC fell to Elite Eight-bound Miami at the buzzer in overtime in a back-and-forth postseason matchup.
The run inspired significant faith in what Grant is building in Chestnut Hill. What’s more, the program is seeing a 40,000-square-foot practice facility come into form. Plus, it’s welcoming its first recruiting class in the Rivals.com recruiting database era (2002-on) with a pair of four-star signees. To top it off, the Eagles are returning four starters and another who made the ACC All-Tournament second team and started 11 games last season.
It’s a long way of saying that BC men’s basketball finally has some preseason juice again. So, with that, it’s only natural to wonder what next season’s rotation will look like.
Let’s give it a try.
G – Jaeden Zackery (So.)
G – Makai Ashton-Langford (Gr.)
G – DeMarr Langford Jr. (Jr.)
G / F – Prince Aligbe (Fr.)
C – Quinten Post (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: Yes, no TJ Bickerstaff. Grant has talked extensively about how he likes to roll with four guards. He did it at Charleston College, and he did it last year at BC, mostly at the end of the season when the Eagles were hobbled by injury. The starting five for the majority of the 2021-22 season was the best five players available for Grant. But it was not his preferred formation, position wise.
Also, as great as Bickerstaff was on the glass — he led the team with 7.2 rebounds per game and had four outings with 15-plus boards — he was not an efficient scorer. Defense was not the problem for the Eagles last year. Under Grant, BC posted its best adjusted defensive efficiency in more than half a decade, according to KenPom. Offense was the issue for the Eagles. Having a player in the lineup who can double as a guard or forward like four star Prince Aligbe should help in that department.
That said, as highly touted as Aligbe is, it wouldn’t be incredibly surprising to see fellow four star DJ Hand, or even Chas Kelley — another incoming freshman guard — get the nod. This class is pretty talented. And Grant will reward the most deserving player, regardless of recruiting ranking (Jaeden Zackery is exhibit A).
Both Hand and Kelley can score the basketball at all three levels. Hand, the 2022 Virginia Class 6 Player of the Year, averaged 25.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.8 steals per game while leading Landstown High School to the Region A semis. Kelley was a triple-double threat The Phelps School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, posting 20.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game as a senior.
That said, Aligbe is probably BC’s most intriguing incoming freshman. He plays at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, where former Gonzaga stars Jalen Suggs and Chet Holmgren starred. The 6-foot-6 forward was a finalist for the Mr. Basketball Award in Minnesota this year. He led the state in scoring with 28.3 points per game, not to mention his 12.0 rebounds per contest as well. Aligbe is undersized for the four, but he’s exceptional on the glass.
TOP BENCH OPTIONS:
G – DJ Hand (Fr.)
G – Chas Kelley (Fr.)
F – TJ Bickerstaff (Fr.)
G – Mason Madsen (Jr.)
F – CJ Penha Jr. (Gr.)
OUTLOOK: I can see Hand or Kelley being BC’s sixth man next season. In general, I think we’ll see some combination of Aligbe, Hand and Kelley early on, with each getting a decent amount of run.
Bickerstaff’s minutes will likely be scaled back next season. He could be more useful in that role, though, as his energy off the bench will come in handy on the defensive side of the floor. Madsen is a three-and-D perimeter player that BC brought over from Cincinnati. The Eagles ranked 299th in 3-point percentage (30.9%) last year, and only 25.8% of their scoring output came from triples (311th nationally). If he pans out, Madsen should hover around 1.5-2 makes from deep a game.
Now, CJ Penha Jr. is really interesting. The grad transfer was a sneaky addition to the 2022-23 roster. The 6-foot-7 forward comes from Division II Trevecca Nazarene, where he started all 22 games last season and averaged 20.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest. Penha shot 49.6% from the field in 2021-22, including 30.3% from long range. While his 3-point clip was not superb, he did have three games with at least four 3-pointers. How will he fare against Power Five competition? It’s a fair question. But against Ole Miss, he logged 24 points, five boards and four assists.
END OF BENCH:
C – Armani Mighty (Fr.)
F – Devin McGlockton (So.)
F – Andrew Kenny (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: I think Mighty is the one incoming freshman who will take somewhat of a backseat during Year One. He’s still relatively raw. It was late into his childhood that he picked up basketball, following his family’s move from Jamaica to Canada. Soccer was his primary sport, and it helped him become an athletic rim protector. Mighty stands 6-foot-10 with a wing span that’s longer than seven feet.
He can play the four or the five. With soft hands, great mobility in the paint and a ferociousness inside, he’s a center with a ton of upside. He’s still coming into his own, though. And with Post and Bickerstaff likely running the next five season, Mighty will be able to better his game before taking on a load of minutes.
Devin McGlockton and Andrew Kenny will probably average between 1-3 minutes per game. McGlockton has more potential, but he did not play in a single game last season after averaging 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game during his senior season for South Forsyth in Georgia.