BC, Harvard relegated to NIT

NEWTON, Mass. -- After Boston College suffered a crushing 70-47 loss to Clemson, a fellow denizen of the NCAA bubble, in the second round of the ACC tournament, coach Steve Donahue had a feeling the television viewing at Conte Forum for Selection Sunday wouldn't be a festive affair.

“I sensed it just from the last couple days that we were probably a long shot,” Donahue said. “I wasn’t real confident to be quite honest, maybe because there’s a bad feeling in your stomach on how poorly you played your last game. Maybe that had more to do it than anything.

“If we came off the Virginia Tech game and that was our last game, on the road, maybe we feel differently today.”

Beating Virginia Tech on the road, after the Hokies had just taken down then-No. 1 ranked Duke, would have been a nice way to end the season. Unfortunately for the Eagles, there were other games remaining after that March 1 matchup and those didn’t end quite so well for the maroon and gold.

“We got what we deserved. That’s the bottom line,” Donahue said. “We’ve got to work harder, we’ve got to do things better.

“[The NCAA tournament] isn’t just for if you’re a little bit better than everyone else, you’ve got to be exceptional.”

Reggie Jackson said that while the team is disappointed the Eagles didn’t make the field of 68, as a team leader it’s his responsibility to keep his teammates’ spirits up as much as possible.

“It’s reality. We’re gonna face it,” Jackson said. “We’re not going to hang our heads, we battled and I’m going to preach that to the team. We did what we did, we did what we could do this year. First-year coach, I’m proud of how we responded throughout the season.

“We’re a little bit bitter from not making the tournament, but it’s a great season still.”

Senior forward Joe Trapani tried to keep it light with his remarks.

“I wasn’t expecting a bye, but ...” he said with a small laugh.

“I thought we had a good season in the ACC and I thought we could have done better, 9-7 is a good record [in the ACC], and a 20-win season is also good,” Trapani said. “So I thought we did accomplish a lot this year even though we didn’t get to where we wanted to go to.”

Instead, BC (20-12) will go to the NIT, where it is one of the four No. 1 seeds in the 32-team field. The Eagles will play at McNeese State (21-10) on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.

BC will be joined in the NIT by Harvard, which lost a heartbreaker to Princeton in a playoff for the Ivy League's NCAA berth on Saturday. The Crimson will play at Oklahoma State on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN).

Harvard, which set a program record with 23 victories this season, will face a 19-13 Cowboys team led by former UMass coach Travis Ford.

For BC, finishing 20-12 overall and 9-7 in the ACC is no doubt a step up from last season’s results (15-16, 6-10 ACC), especially considering it was Donahue’s first season as head coach. But even the most ardent Eagles supporter would have to admit it fell short of exceptional.

Home losses to Yale, Harvard and Miami, a 4-6 road record and a lack of a marquee win all hurt the Eagles’ résumé in the end.

Donahue said he was disappointed the eight seniors on the BC roster won’t get the chance to come back next season and improve on their efforts. But the coach also said he was proud of what they did accomplish.

“If you make this a great run here, these kids will never forget this,” Donahue said. “NIT or NCAA, we can make this a very special experience for these guys.”