Launching a few college basketball thoughts from behind the arc while questioning myself about why I was invested in the Rhode Island-Fordham game Saturday. Sometimes I can’t figure out the matchup zone that is my mind.
■ As Jim Christian nears the end of his fifth season as Boston College coach, there are a number of ways to evaluate him.
There are the pleasant memories of beating Duke in Conte Forum last season, the development of NBA lottery pick Jerome Robinson, and enough improvement to make the NIT last season.
On the negative side, there’s the 61-94 overall record. The never-to-be-forgotten winless season in the ACC in 2015-16 and, even this year, despite a 13-11 mark and an impressive victory over nationally ranked Florida State, there are the two gigantic blots on the record: Inexplicable home losses to IUPUI and Hartford.
It’s the type of performance that leads to regime change, but Christian refuses to let the negative thinking affect him.
“I don’t really worry about that,’’ he said. “I worried about that when it was Year 1. In Year , people can be happy, people can not be happy. With what we’ve been dealt this year, we’ve done a phenomenal job. I don’t care what anyone says.
“Years 1 through 5, when you’re not sure what you can do, you worry about it. I coach every day; these guys know I care about them. They know I’m going to work hard every day. I don’t worry about anything else. Everything else is speculation on somebody’s part.’’
Injuries play a part in the team’s inconsistency. Freshman guard Wynston Tabbs, who became an important player from the first game, has missed nine games with a knee injury. There are others: Shooter Jordan Chatman (three games with an ankle injury), rugged center Nik Popovic (three games, groin and concussion), and active forward Steffon Mitchell (four games with a thigh injury).
Young brothers Jared and Jairus Hamilton, as well as Chris Herren Jr., are talented but have been slow to become consistent contributors.
“We’ve had to reinvent ourselves a couple of times,’’ said Christian. “We have to play and compete with who’s here, but when guys go out, it changes a lot of stuff.
“It’s a different offensive package when Nico’s [Popovich] in the game and when he’s not in the game. There’s a different offensive set when Chatman’s in the game and when Chatman’s not in the game. When Wynston Tabbs is in the game and when he’s not, the options on the team become different.
“You’ve got to kind of keep reinventing yourself. Other guys have to emerge, and I think we’re getting that. Chris Herren’s emerged, he’s getting better. He’s a much better player now than he was against Virginia Tech in the first ACC game. Jared Hamilton’s a much better player now than he was when he played against DePaul.
“All of those things slowly happen and then, hopefully, if you get everybody back and the team continues to grow, you can see what you really can do.
“Right now, it’s just game by game — who can play, what’s our best chance to win this game? What do we have to do to give ourselves an opportunity? We’ve done that. We’ve done that pretty much every game.”
Playing in the best basketball conference in the country is part of the problem, but no matter who coaches BC, that’s not going to change.
“The is a tough league,’’ Christian said. “You cannot have your spirit squashed when the schedule sometimes becomes overbearing. It’s going to be tough, I don’t care who you are.
“This is a great league. You’ve got to weather those storms and stay together through tough times. And I think that’s what this team did, that’s what happened.’’
That will continue to be true the rest of the season. A home game against North Carolina on March 5 is probably a loss; there also are home games against Louisville and North Carolina State, and road games against N.C. State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech. The ACC tournament begins March 12.
A BC official said athletic director Martin Jarmond wouldn’t talk about the basketball program, so it’s unclear whether the final few games will have any bearing on Christian’s future.
■ The return of Bryce Aiken has made a huge difference for Harvard. He played somewhat like his buddy, Kyrie Irving, over the weekend in wins at Princeton (33 points) and Penn (25), including a 30-footer to send the latter to overtime.
There’s another big road trip for Harvard this weekend: Brown on Friday and then Yale on Saturday in what will be the Ivy League’s game of the year. Yale leads Harvard by one game in the standings.
■ Northeastern suffered a tough loss to Charleston on Saturday. The Huskies trail Hofstra by two games in the Colonial Athletic Association with four to play. It would be stunning if they made that up. It still comes down to three days in March.
■ I saw the unhindered Ja Morant last week, finally recovered from a sprained ankle. The Murray State guard is projected as a top-five pick in the NBA Draft. He has great natural talent — that is, he’s fast and can jump. He also has a great knack of slithering through the lane to get to the basket. But he’s not necessarily fundamentally sound; there are a lot of one-handed passes.
■ I thought we all learned this lesson in 1992 when Christian Laettner and Duke beat Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament on a full-court pass and shot. Apparently not.
Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell did not have his team guard the inbounder while protecting a 1-point lead with 3.3 seconds left against Iowa on Saturday. It still took an Iowa player grabbing a deflected ball and banking in a shot from the corner to win the game, but . . . PUT YOUR TALLEST PLAYER ON THE INBOUNDER in those situations.
■ Some notable facts from last week:
North Carolina’s 95-57 victory over Wake Forest marked the school’s largest margin of victory in an ACC road game. It also was the largest margin in series history, and the worst home loss for Wake at Joel Coliseum.
Auburn won at Vanderbilt for the first time since 2000. On the other side, Vandy has lost 13 straight; the school record is 14, set over two seasons, 1934-36. Next in line: Tennessee, coming off a loss to Kentucky.
I didn’t know this. Oregon State and Oregon have played 352 times, an ongoing NCAA record that dates to 1903. I guess I’m surprised that the Beavers lead the series, 189-163. With a win Saturday, the Beavers swept the Ducks and are in second place in the Pac 12 at 8-4.
■ Conference USA will begin its revolutionary scheduling experiment this Saturday. The last four games of each team’s schedule were left blank before the season. The matchups have been determined by performance.
The goal was to improve the league’s NCAA at-large chances by making the schedule more difficult. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to work; C-USA appears to still be a one-bid league.