By: Matthew Doherty
For the second consecutive season, the Boston University men’s basketball team saw their season come to a close in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament.
Last year, the Terriers dropped a double-overtime heartbreaker to third-seeded Lehigh at Case Gym. This year, top-seeded Bucknell handled BU easily at Sojka Pavilion in the semifinals. Lehigh, the reigning Patriot League champions, led by 23 at halftime and won convincingly, 90-59, to advance to the title game.
BU finished its season 15-16 overall and 10-8 in Patriot League play. The Terriers finished fifth in the regular season standings despite being selected second in the preseason poll. However, BU extended its streak of finishing .500 or better in conference play for the 18th consecutive year, good for the ninth longest streak in Division 1. Schools with a longer streak include Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, Kansas, and Gonzaga. The feat shows the consistency of the Terrier program, especially under current coach Joe Jones, who has gone 80-42 in conference play in his seven seasons at the helm.
The 2017-2018 Terriers were up and down but marred by injuries. They struggled with a tough non-conference schedule but found their groove in the beginning of conference play, starting out 5-1. But senior Cedric Hankerson, the team’s leading scorer, went down with an injury. Fellow senior Nick Havener suffered a torn labrum and freshman Walter Whyte hurt his ankle as well. On top of that, key role players Destin Barnes and Cheddi Mosely missed all but two games with injuries. BU went through a difficult stretch in conference play highlighted by a five-game losing skid but won three straight games with a full-squad before the Bucknell loss.
Here’s a complete breakdown of the 2017-2018 season as well as a look ahead to next season.
Non-Conference: BU went 4-7 in non-conference games. After losing three starters in the offseason, the team did not jell in the early-going. It didn’t help that they faced formidable opponents. Losses to Northeastern, Albany, Connecticut, Miami, and Harvard were expected. However, a loss at UMass-Lowell, who finished 12-18, was one of the worst of the season. The Terriers should have gone 5-6 or 6-5 in the non-conference, but with a new and young lineup, the 4-7 mark was fine as long as they had a strong conference season.
Conference: The Terriers 10-8 mark was a step backwards after going 11-7 and 12-6 in the previous seasons, respectively. Without injuries though, this team probably would have went 12-6 or better. They started off 5-1, highlighted by an 84-79 win at Bucknell on January 2nd. They went 7-2 the first time around the league but Hankerson and Whyte’s injuries caught up to them. They beat Loyola Maryland on January 31st to improve to 8-3, but the Terriers lost their next five games. Hankerson missed the first two games of the skid and Whyte missed four of those games. Whyte came back on February 21st and BU knocked off Lafayette and Army to complete the regular season. The team lost just one conference with a healthy roster but ran into a buzzsaw in the postseason in Bucknell.
Best Win: at Bucknell, January 2nd.
In the first matchup of the season between the two preseason favorites, the Terriers shocked Bucknell at Sojka, 84-79. They were the only Patriot League team to beat Bucknell at home this year. Hankerson scored 21 points, Tyler Scanlon had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and senior Will Goff made a career-high five 3-pointers. The win showed how good the Terriers could be when everything clicked.
Worst Loss: vs. American, January 17th.
This was the only loss BU had with a healthy lineup and it came against the worst team in the league. American won just three conference games and two of them were against the Terriers. This loss at Case Gym came by 11 points. The Terriers scored just 58 points and had 21 turnovers.
Greg Levinsky and I gave our post-season report cards on players last week. But here are some superlatives.
Seniors: A quick shoutout to the four seniors, Cedric Hankerson, Will Goff, Nick Havener, and Eric Johnson.
Hankerson recorded his 1,000th point this year and finished with 1,299 points, good for 13th in school history. Remember, Hankerson was an All-League performer as a sophomore before tearing his ACL. Hankerson was never the same player but still put together a fabulous career. It’s tough to think how much higher he could have been on the scoring list if he hadn’t got hurt.
Goff was a marks-men from behind the arc and at one point this season was top 10 nationally in 3-point percentage. With all the injuries this year, Goff provided steady minutes.
Havener was impressive earlier in the season. He improved mightily on the offensive end but the labrum injury derailed his season. Havener was never a scoring threat after the tear. He would have been a major help in paint scoring but still provided important defensive minutes. Finally, Johnson was always a consistent point guard. He’s an underrated passer and took over the starting job at a time this season.
Breakout Player: Max Mahoney
The sophomore forward took a major leap this season. He averaged 5.4 ppg and 3.3 rpg off the bench as a freshman. This year he averaged 12.9 ppg and 4.8 rpg in 21 minutes of play. Mahoney became a true back to the basket scorer. He improved his post moves and showed a nice touch around the basket. The 6’8 Mahoney had monster performances including 29 points at UMass Lowell, 27 points vs. Loyola Maryland, and 27 points at Lehigh in the quarterfinal win. He earned Patriot League Third-Team honors and will be in the running for first-team next year.
Most Important Player: Walter Whyte
Whyte missed four games during his freshman campaign and the Terriers lost all four. He didn’t blow up the stat sheet (9.3 ppg and 5.0 rpg) but Whyte was the most versatile Terrier. He showed he can defend multiple positions, rebound on both ends of the court, and score at different levels. Whyte was named to the All-Rookie team. He will only get better as he gets older and grows into his body. With Hankerson graduating, Whyte will take an ever bigger role offensively next season. Buy stock now, this kid is going to be a good one.
The Terriers lost their two leading scorers, Eric Fanning and Justin Alston, last offseason. Then, two-year starting point guard, Kyle Foreman, decided not to play just weeks before the season start date. Because of this, many players were forced into larger roles than expected. Freshman Javante McCoy became the starting point guard. He had his ups and downs but will learn from this experience.
BU started two sophomores and two freshmen for the majority of the season, meaning they will return four starters. Mosely will be back as a fifth-year senior. He’ll join walk-on point guard Kamali Chambers as the lone seniors on the roster. Barnes will be back as well as a redshirt sophomore. The Terriers also added Texas Tech transfer Alex Vilarino this semester. He will be eligible at the beginning of the season. Here’s a look at the projected depth chart.
PG: Javante McCoy, Sophomore, Alex Vilarino, Freshman
SG: Cheddi Mosely, Senior, Andrew Petcash, Sophomore
SF: Walter Whyte, Sophomore, Destin Barnes, Sophomore
PF: Tyler Scanlon, Junior, Jack Hemphill, Freshman
PF: Max Mahoney, Junior, Sukhmail Mathon, Sophomore
Bench: Jordan Guest, Kamali Chambers, Garrett Pascoe, Fletcher Tynen
The Terriers could conceivably be picked as the preaseason favorites next year in the Patriot League. Bucknell will no longer have Zach Thomas and Nana Foulland, Navy loses four starters, and Colgate will graduate three key seniors.
The future looks bright for Joe Jones and the Terrier program. Whyte and Mahoney will be the go-to guys while Tyler Scanlon will be a perfect third player. The key moving forward is the development of McCoy as well as the returns of Mosely and Barnes from injuries.
Jack Hemphill is the top-recruit for the Class of 2022. He plays a similar style to Mahoney and could be a dominant post-player from day one. Jordan Guest, a 3-star recruit from Southern California, will also join them in the front-court. Fletcher Tynen and Garrett Pascoe, also from California, round out the incoming class.
The 2017-2018 team never reached its peak because of injuries, but the program still put together another consistent year. The ceiling should be much higher for next year’s squad. Although they’ll still be young, the keys to the offense will be handed over to Whyte and Mahoney. Expect BU to finish in the top three of the conference and be right in the mix for the Patriot League Title for the fourth consecutive season.