The Bowl Games of Basketball Season: Part I – The Nittany Lions take the BIG 10/ACC Challenge
By: Stephen McAlee
I said to my broadcast crew prior to our call of Boston College vs. Penn State on WZBC Newton 90.3 FM, “Let’s hope the outcome of this game is different than last season’s Pinstripe Bowl,” where BC fell to PSU in what can only be called a devastating loss on the gridiron. While an early-season non-conference game carries nowhere near the importance of a college football bowl game, this game was a big one for Jim Christian’s young squad. The Eagles fell to the Nittany Lions, 67-58, on Wednesday at “Ugly Sweater Night” at Conte Forum.
This team is still tracing back to its winning ways of the recent past, so making a dent in the phenomenal ACC will require a lot of effort. The development of the talented freshman class is something to look forward to throughout the season. Yes, as is a great perk of being in the ACC, there will be some fun games to watch on the Heights later in the year as Duke, Notre Dame, and North Carolina all come to town, but unlike a good chunk of Division I teams, BC is setting its sights on development rather than the Final Four. The current roster are probably a year or two away.
So then, what makes the Penn State game so important? For one thing, it was a game the Eagles had a chance to win. Penn State came in as a projected bottom-dweller of the Big Ten, so while it was not the most exciting matchup in the B1G/ACC Challenge, it was sure to be competitive. If BC had pulled out a W, I would have seen it as a mini-bowl game win of the basketball season. If this freshman-dominated team were to knock off a ranked ACC opponent in conference play later this season, that would be a pleasant building block, too. Winning its leg of the BIG 10/ACC Challenge would have been a sign that the Eagles belong. It would have taken care of its job of supporting the ACC. The ACC as a whole should root for other ACC teams in non-conference games for the same reason that the whole ACC is rooting for Clemson in the ACC Championship game and (hopefully) College Football Playoff: Clemson is the only chance the conference has this year, and its success is good for the rest of the conference’s teams.
The PSU game and the Atlantic 10-ACC Double Header at Barclays Center on December 22nd may just be the two most crucial games of the year for the Eagles. Coach Christian’s squad will show up on the big stage and try to take care of business. Even if the stakes aren’t as high in these non-conference games, they are opportunities to win those mini-bowl games of the basketball season. Two years from now, when the country continues to question how Jerome Robinson escaped the ferocious recruiting of North Carolina and wonder how A.J. Turner found his way out of the immensely talented state of Michigan and BC is back in competition for the ACC, small games like Penn State or Fordham may be easy wins, even afterthoughts. BC is not there yet, though. Until then, let’s hope that these talented freshman continue to shine and the team gives the Heights an early Christmas present by going to Barclays Center and taking care of business against the A10.