Boston College's mens basketball team hasn't won many games this season, but if you have been paying attention, it's clear that they have made real progress. The actual victories may not be there, but BC does have plenty of moral ones.
If you can't beat 'em, you can at least take solace in the fact that you played hard. Of course, that isn't the mentality of a winning college basketball program, but it is one for a young college hoops squad like the Boston College Eagles.
Boston College doesn't do much winning, they're 7-15 on the season and 2-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. BC has dropped five straight conference games with eight games left in the regular season. Not exactly a successful campaign.
Yet that's not the goal, at least not for now. Sure, the Eagles want to win. But right now, the growth and development of this very young team takes precedence over the standings. Steve Donahue, the Eagles' second-year head coach, has made that point very clear throughout this rebuilding process.
BC gained one of those moral victories on Wednesday. Well, sort of. Trailing by two points at halftime, Boston College put forth a valiant effort against the N.C. State Wolfpack in what would turn out to be a 56-51 loss at Conte Forum.
Unlike recent games, the Eagles were able to avoid their now trademark end of game scoring draughts. In fact, Matt Humphrey's corner three gave Boston College a 40-38 lead late in the second half, keeping the Eagles in the game.
However, you can only hold off the inevitable for so long. N.C. State closed out the game on an 18-11 run and pulled away at the very end to preserve the victory. Another day, another loss for the Eagles. But there was progress in defeat.
Times have been tough for Boston College sports fans. Aside from the men's basketball team, the football team had an awful season and the men's hockey team has fallen upon tough times, too. Unlike the football or hockey teams, though, its clear that the men's hoops team has ben moving in the right direction, thanks in part to the coaching of Donahue.
At the start of the season, this team looked downright terrible. After the season-opening win against New Hampshire (not much of a win, in reality), BC suffered bad losses against Holy Cross, UMass and St. Louis. It was very ugly.
Yet if you are watching this team closely, it's very clear that they are a much better squad now than they were back then. At the season's beginning, they looked absolutely lost on the court at points. Offensive possessions would consist of passing the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock expired. And don't even get me started on the turnovers.
Now, you can actually see the Eagles running plays. Instead of waiting for contested threes, BC is working the ball inside and making smart passes. Of course, the mistakes are still there. That is natural for any team with that many freshman.
It's also apparent that these players have become a lot more comfortable in their own skin. Ryan Anderson, Dennis Clifford, Matt Humphrey, Jordan Daniels and Lonnie Jackson all look miles better than they did back on November 14.
What's to thank for that? Donahue's system, for one. It's clear that he is the right man for the job, and it just takes time for his players to ease into his system. Experience has also led to better play all around.
There's a lot to be excited about with this group. While they may not win another game this season, they will definitely be better off for the experience in their final eight ACC battles. So for right now, don't look for wins, look for improvement.
If you're keeping score of moral victories at home, Boston College might just lead the league.