Hey, Start Paying Attention to Women’s Basketball
By JD Biagioni
Unbeknownst to most, Joanna Bernabei-McNamee’s squad has something special brewing. Currently in the midst of a four-game winning streak, the Eagles have positioned themselves on the tournament bubble, and not the NIT one. That’s right, with a solid finish to the regular season, Boston College has a very real shot of making the NCAA Tournament.
Currently, they are listed by ESPN’s Charlie Creme as one of the “Next Four Out” in the NCAA Tournament field. He projects five ACC teams to make the tournament, four of them being locks. Louisville, NC State, Florida State and Virginia Tech will all finish with upwards of 20 wins, but Duke, a projected No. 9 seed, sits at 16-10, the same exact record as BC. Duke does own the head-to-head edge thanks to an 85-73 victory at Cameron in early December, but still the margin between these two teams is slim at best.
Each team has three games left, and BC has the slightly easier schedule. Duke will be on the road the rest of the way, against NC State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. BC will host Miami and travel to Louisville and Syracuse. Duke’s three opponents have combined .756 winning percentage, while BC’s have a .658 winning percentage.
Still, jumping Duke isn’t the only path in. Western Kentucky, Bradley, UCF and Oklahoma State are listed as the “Last Four In”, while James Madison, Ohio, West Virginia, St. John’s, Middle Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Seton Hall are listed above BC on the “First Four Out” and “Next Four Out” lines.
The conference standings are too packed to project the ACC Tournament, but BC is currently in line for the No. 7 seed and a first round bye. If BC can finish 2-1 and maybe win its first round matchup in the ACC Tournament, that should be enough to get in. If nothing else, BC has become a lock for the NIT if they fall just short of an NCAA berth.
But enough about the possibility of postseason basketball. Regardless of how the end of this season plays out, it’s time to appreciate this team for what they’ve done this season. Since joining the ACC prior to the 2005 season, BC’s conference win record is seven. This season, the Eagles are already at nine and have a real shot at cracking double digits. That 2005 season marked the last time BC made the NCAA Tournament, and the 2010-11 season was the last time they reached the NIT.
The Eagles have also set plenty of program records along the way. In January, BC won on the road at Notre Dame. The last time they beat Notre Dame was in 2006, and they had previously never defeated the Irish at Purcell Pavillion. Later in January, the Eagles knocked off No. 14 Florida State; it was their first win over a ranked team since 2015 and their second-ever victory over the Seminoles.
"Hey, look mom, I made SportsCenter ‼️"
— Boston College Women’s Basketball (@bc_wbb) February 15, 2020
The best part is that this journey won’t end in March, it’s just getting started. With the exception of Emma Guy, the Eagles’ core will return for two more seasons. Taylor Soule, Makayla Dickens, Marnelle Garraud and Cam Swartz are all sophomores.
Soule, currently BC’s leading scorer, has doubled her point production during her second season on the Heights and is averaging 23-plus over her last three games.
Taylor Soule is our Player of the Week!
She led @bc_wbb to a 2-0 week with ✌️ double-double performances, as she averaged 24.5 points and 11 rebounds per game.
— ACC Women's Basketball (@accwbb) February 17, 2020
Dickens and Swartz form an intimidating backcourt duo. Swartz, a Colorado transfer, was BC’s leading scorer during the first half of the season, but hasn’t scored double digits since returning from an ankle injury. While that dip in production can be chalked up to the injury, Swartz seems to have turned a corner, as she played 25 minutes and knocked down a couple 3-pointers against Pitt. Dickens was a big reason why the Eagles were able to maintain momentum while one of their better players was recovering from an injury. She didn’t let an early-season stretch where she came off the bench slow her down and stabilized the starting unit after Swartz’s injury.
Garraud has developed into one of the best two-way players in the nation and is currently second in the ACC in steals.
Sharp-shooting guard Milan Bolden-Morris should also return for her senior season, and freshman Jaelyn Batts could very well make a sophomore leap akin to Soule or Garraud.
The Eagles will also welcome three recruits, including Josiah Lacey, the No. 55 recruit in the nation, as well as 6-foot-2-inch Sydney McQuietor.
The future is clearly bright for this team, but that doesn’t mask anticipation for the present. An NCAA Tournament berth would be fantastic, but an NIT Tournament would be an exciting opportunity for this team as well. They’d almost certainly earn a higher seed in the tournament, meaning they’d host at least a round or two. Also, for a young team, the opportunity to play deep into a postseason tournament could be beneficial.
It’s an exciting time to be a BC Women’s Basketball fan. The team may not get a ton of coverage, but it’s time to start paying attention. That can start Sunday afternoon, as the Eagles host Miami for senior night.