By: Greg Levinsky
Over the next two-plus weeks, the Boston University men’s basketball team should find out quite a bit about where they stand. A six-game road swing begins Nov. 14 and spans until the Terriers (2-1) return to Case Gym Dec. 4.
BU plays at Albany, Eastern Michigan, Drexel, Rutgers, New Hampshire and Elon over the course of the trip.
It’s interesting to note that of the six teams BU plays over the next few weeks, just one comes from a Power 5 conference. Rutgers competes in the BIG 10, but the majority of BU’s opponents are mid-major squads of fairly similar caliber to the best teams in the Patriot League.
Is this usual? Not really.
Over the past five seasons, BU has faced top-ranked national talent with contests at Kentucky, ranked No. 1 both times they played, and Power 5 teams NC State, Miami and Syracuse.
You can look at this year’s non-conference slate not as the new norm, but rather a keenly scheduled preseason of sorts.
First, playing other mid-major teams will provide similar levels of competition to that of what the Terriers will play in the Patriot League. The games should be close, and there is ample opportunity to work on late game plays and sets.
It’s no secret this iteration of the Terriers is young. With 10 underclassmen, head coach Joe Jones has talked about the potential for this group to both win now and in the future. Playing Patriot League esque competition should help mold the team for conference play come the new year.
Playing on the road and the byproduct of traveling is one of the most challenging parts for a freshman college athlete. Preparing for such a long stretch of road games is likely something the freshman will not see again. If they can find comfort playing in a variety of arenas in such short time, it bodes well for the conference season where trips are usually limited to a game or two.
Scouting the opponents
Albany (0-1), Nov. 14 7:30 p.m.
Joe Cremo transferred to Villanova as a graduate student for his final year of eligibility. David Nichols did the same, taking his talents to Florida State. The Great Danes once had one of the top guard combinations in all of college basketball. Now they’re in a rebuild.
They lost 72-68 against Iona in their opener, and 17th-year head coach Will Brown expressed his understanding of his roster.
“I wanted to learn a lot about my group… I think youth and inexperience was the difference in the game, as were our self-inflicted mistakes,” Brown said in Albany’s recap.
Eastern Michigan (3-0), Nov. 17 2:30 p.m.
The Eagles play No. 1 Duke before hosting the Terriers. Picked to finish second in the MAC, this team could pose the second toughest challenge of the Terriers conference slate. They’re shooting over 52 percent from the field as a team, and matchup well with BU’s size.
With 6-foot-11 Boubacar Toure and 6-foot-10 James Thompson IV manning the middle, the Eagles have NBA size.
Drexel (0-2), Nov. 21 3:00 p.m.
Eastern Michigan topped the Dragons by just four earlier this year, but Rutgers ousted Drexel 95-66. The Terriers should head into Thanksgiving day on a decent note before playing their best non-conference foe.
Rutgers (2-0), Nov. 23 2:00 p.m.
Interestingly enough, the Scarlet Knights will also play Eastern Michigan as part of their non-conference schedule. There’s quite a bit of common opponents between the first four teams the Terriers play on their trip. Rutgers is home for its first five games of the season, and look to bounce back from a paltry 15-19 mark last year.
Despite their treacherous season, they still went 13-9 at home. The RAC is a hostile atmosphere.
New Hampshire (2-1), Nov. 28 7:00 p.m.
Iba Camara, Jacoby Armstrong and Tanner Leissner all graduated, so the Wildcats aren’t in any position for an NCAA Tournament bid. They lost by 29 to their only Division I opponent of the early going.
Elon (1-1), Dec 1. 2:00 p.m.
The Phoenix topped the Terriers 77-68 in a contest last year at Case Gym. Now-senior Steven Santa Ana’s five 3-pointers led a 15-of-33 (45 percent) barrage from beyond the arc. It’s hard to believe they’ll shoot that well again as they’re at 29.2 percent to start the season.
Both teams lost more than one starter, but return the majority of the rotation.
Greg Levinsky can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky