By: Greg Levinsky
As fall sports teams at Boston University begin their push for Patriot League titles, and the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams open up their seasons, it leads the basketball fan to just one thought: only one month until college hoops season begins.
Although the men’s basketball team at Boston University is less popular than its season-sharing skaters, the Terriers have just a good a chance to get to March’s big dance as anyone in a mid-major conference.
To get to the NCAA Tournament, Joe Jones and company must win the Patriot League Tournament, something they have not done in the first six years of Jones’s tenure. In 2014, the Terriers secured the regular season Patriot League title but were unable to run the table in the post-season tournament to secure a bid to the NCAA round of 64, losing in the Patriot League final to American.
The 2017-2018 edition of the Terrier men’s basketball program is slightly different than in recent years. Sans Eric Fanning, there really is no main scoring option.
What Jones has done though, is compiled a deep and talented team with a plethora of experienced players.
Starting point guard Kyle Foreman decided not to return for his junior season, so it is likely senior Eric Johnson – who registered 4.1 points per game in 16.8 minutes per game last year – will handle the starting role. Walk-on junior Kamali Chambers will back up Johnson. It would not be surprising to also see seniors Cedric Hankerson and Cheddi Mosely get some minutes at the 1.
Terrier fans can only hope Cedric Hankerson builds off of last season. After suffering multiple knee injuries over the last two years, the senior guard was not quite as relied on as he was during his sophomore campaign. Hankerson averaged 15.9 points per game his sophomore year, earning Patriot League All-Conference Second Team honors. Last season, he averaged 9.6 points per game, playing second fiddle to Fanning. Hankerson is a volume shooter, evidenced by his 10 three-point explosion at Syracuse.
Mosely is another volume outside scoring threat. The six-foot-three senior averaged 9.2 points per game on 34.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc in 10 games last season. Mosely and current sophomore guard Destin Barnes were suspended for the final two-thirds of last season, but should both play important roles this year.
Barnes is an intriguing talent. The six-foot-six wing was impressive in limited action last season. In the Terriers season-opening loss at Northeastern, Barnes tallied 11 points connecting on three 3-pointers. Barnes has the potential to be a breakout player for BU. With a lethal combination of athleticism, length and basketball IQ, Barnes could end up as Jones’s most reliable offensive player.
Freshman guard Walter Whyte likely has the highest ceiling of any player on BU. He was ranked in the ESPN Top 100 during his junior year and a reclassification helped him to mature physically. Whyte and Barnes are both six-foot-six, 210 pounds and it would not be far-fetched to assume the two will make a dynamic wing duo by the time the calendar turns to 2018.
Two more sophomores, Tyler Scanlon and Max Mahoney, should see ample time as well. Scanlon was named to the 2017 Patriot League All-Rookie team as he started 22 of the team’s last 23 games and averaged 8.1 points per game over 32 appearances. Scanlon is slightly bigger than Whyte and Barnes at six-foot-seven, 215 pounds and could play some power-forward in a smaller lineup.
Mahoney is the consummate energy player. No one on the team hustles harder and gives more effort than Mahoney – 5.4 points per game on 59.5 percent shooting last year – which oftentimes translates into easy transition and put-back dunks, as well as numerous rebounds. With the loss of Justin Alston, Mahoney could step into a starting role. If not, he should earn significant minutes thanks to a high motor and desire to truly give everything he has.
Senior forward Nick Havener will also be relied on heavily in the frontcourt. Havener is 10 pounds lighter than Mahoney, but is a similar player who gives relentless effort on the court. Havener’s offensive arsenal is slightly more advanced than Mahoney’s, although Mahoney is more efficient around the rim.
At the wing positions, BU is stacked. If Mahoney and Havener can play significant minutes without foul trouble then the Terriers should see a lot of success. The team is thin in the frontcourt, yet with the talent of Hankerson, Mosely, White, Barnes and Scanlon, BU can mask its lack of size.
Prediction: The Terriers have the potential to run the table in the Patriot League tournament and reach March Madness, but everything must go their way for it to happen. With a 29-game slate, it would be reasonable to expect a 19-10 record including a 12-6 conference mark, and a trip to the Patriot League final before falling to Bucknell.