You’re out to dinner with people who share a bond with you: The dedication of following a men’s college basketball team. It’s early November. The season is about to start. Just what kind of season will it be?
You take one of the napkins, spread it out on the table, take out a pen, and start going through the schedule, game by game. W or L. Each person votes.
I’m going to do that with the local men’s teams. We’d like to hear what you think. We’ll also project a ceiling and floor for each team . . . because you never know. Unexpected greatness could await or total disaster can smack you in the face.
■ Boston College
The Eagles will need big seasons from big man Nik Popovic and graduate transfer point guard Derryck Thornton to be successful. Coach Jim Christian will need other players to improve too, especially sophomore forward Jairus Hamilton.
The nonconference schedule is a lot more interesting than in years past, and there are many potholes and potential losses. Then there’s the whole ACC thing.
Prediction: 16-15. It will be tough to get victories over Belmont at home, and South Florida and Richmond on the road. This roster doesn’t seem capable of upsetting the upper echelon of the ACC.
The ceiling: 23-8, winning every home game except Duke and Louisville. To do this, Popovic would become an all-league player and Thornton one of the best point guards.
The floor: 10-21. Fans spend the season lamenting the absence of injured guard Wynston Tabbs and what a difference he could have made.
■ Boston University
Coach Joe Jones is really excited about this team, especially with the return of sophomore forward Walter Whyte, who missed last season because of an injury, and big man Max Mahoney. Guard Javante McCoy needs to be more consistent and play up to his talent level.
Prediction: 23-8. The big challenges will be road games at South Carolina and West Virginia. The Terriers can’t fool around at a tournament in Cancun. Stay off the beach and stay in the gym. In the Patriot League, protect home court.
Ceiling: 26-5, if the Terriers mesh really well and play great defense. Mahoney would have a great season and McCoy becomes an all-league player, too. This would mean victories at South Carolina, West Virginia, and Vermont and maybe some sneaky-good wins at Colgate and Bucknell.
Floor: 14-17. If seems like injuries would be the only way this would happen, but it also could be attributed to a lack of focus and consistency.
The Crimson return their top nine scorers from a 19-12 team that also finished 10-4 in the Ivy League. And that’s not including Seth Towns, who was the Ivy League Player of the Year two season ago but sat out last season with an injury. His status for this season is uncertain. Senior guard Bryce Aiken is projected to have a great season after missing the early part of last season with an injury.
Prediction: 26-3. Yes, most of the games are winnable. The biggest challenges will be in the Orlando Invitational at Disney World over Thanksgiving. The Crimson open with Texas A&M and then will face either Maryland or Temple. Other teams in the field are Davidson, Marquette, Southern Cal, and Fairfield.
Ceiling: 29-0. Towns returns, Aiken plays great, the supporting cast does its job. This would mean a victory over Maryland and probably Davidson or Marquette plus winning every road game in the Ivy League.
Floor: 19-10. Two things could cause this: Injuries or playing-time issues causing locker room problems. Maybe Penn and Yale turn out to be just as good.
■ Holy Cross
New coach Brett Nelson is really starting from scratch. Guard Austin Butler is the only returning player who was a big contributor last season.
Prediction: 7-24. To even get to this level, the Crusaders will have to play fairly well at home, especially in the Patriot League.
Ceiling: 13-18. The players adapt to Nelson’s enthusiastic style and Butler becomes an all-league-caliber player.
Floor: 2-29. Even Nelson’s passion and acumen fail to overcome the talent gap.
Coach Matt McCall has talked a lot about culture and tried to tamp down expectations. He’s not really starting over, but it’s close, and some of the young talent he has is going to need time to develop.
Prediction: 12-19. UMass fans have to be patient and take joy with any positive play the team gets from Sy Chatman, Tre Mitchell, and T.J. Weeks, the future of the program.
Ceiling: 16-15. Chatman develops into the player McCall thinks he can be, and Mitchell is a candidate for A-10 Freshman of the Year.
Floor: 7-24. The young players don’t progress; this scenario would likely include an embarrassing loss or two.
■ UMass Lowell
At the Coaches vs. Cancer Tip-off event in September, coach Pat Duquette sounded pretty confident about his team, so look out, America East. Guard Christian Lutete is a preseason all-league player.
Prediction: 17-14. Winning on the road will be the key to improving.
Ceiling: 20-11. The River Hawks have 17 home games and they win almost all of them. Maybe they pull off an upset in one of their marquee games at Ohio State, Michigan, or UMass.
Floor: 10-21. This would be an expected disaster, probably caused by several injuries.
Bill Coen is rightfully a well-respected coach, and he’s an underrated recruiter. He has parlayed that into many successful seasons. This year’s team was hurt by two defections, one a transfer and the other with pro aspirations. The best player graduated. It’s a rebuilding year centering around two perimeter players, Jordan Roland and Bolden Brace.
Prediction: 17-13. Coen has some players he needs to fit around Roland and Brace; once he does, the Huskies will get some wins.
Ceiling: 22-8. Freshman point guard Tyson Walker and Illinois transfer Greg Eboigbodin would have to develop quickly into key players.
Floor: 9-21. The new players never develop and the load Roland and Brace have to carry proves too great.
Joe Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.