When the Boston University men’s basketball team travels to Hartford, CT. Saturday, it will officially begin its final go-around as a member of the America East Conference.
After this season, all BU sports — with the exception of men’s and women’s ice hockey, which will remain in the prestigious Hockey East — will move from the America East to the Patriot League.
Since joining the America East in 1979, BU (11–10, 5–3 America East) has made the NIT four times (2002-2005) and the NCAA tournament once as a 16-seed in 2011 when it lost to then-No. 1 University of Kansas in the first round. At one point, current University of Louisville head coach and former Boston Celtics head coach Rick Pitino, coached the Terriers.
“A lot of the coaches in this league are guys that I have been friends with a long time,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “Situations happen. I don’t know if any of the coaches were involved, but people made decisions.”
Even though the team will no longer be part of the in-conference schedule, there is a high likelihood that Terrier fans will see America East teams on the BU nonconference schedule.
“There could definitely be an America East team on our schedule next year or in the future,” Jones said.
The Terriers’ final game as a member of America East will be Feb. 28 against Stony Brook University.
A team that generally lacks size or a traditional “big man,” BU makes up for its physical shortcomings with strong 3-point shooting.
BU currently leads America East in 3-point field goal percentage (.380) as well as 3-point field goals made (168).
“Offensively, besides the Stony Brook game, we have played very well,” Jones said. “We shoot the highest field goal percentage in the league and the highest field goal percentage from ‘3-point land’ in the league. I think we have gotten really comfortable with each other.”
Uncharacteristically, BU went 0-for-9 from behind the arc in its game against University of Maryland-Baltimore County, but Jones said he blames the fatigue after BU’s overtime game against University at Albany and a lack of preparation.
Freshman guard John Papale leads the Terriers in 3-point field goals made with 43, while junior guard D.J. Irving and junior forward Travis Robinson are not far behind with 37 and 35 respectively.
The Terriers began their season on a five-game losing streak that has long been forgotten.
Even with the slow start Jones remained calm, assuring everyone that he understood and even anticipated a slow start with such a young team.
Now, however, the young Terrier team is beginning to find its confidence and was recently able to break the .500 mark for the first time this season.
“Overall, guys have gotten more comfortable playing with each other,” Jones said. “Guys are really starting to play with a lot of confidence.”
BU has no seniors on scholarship and is captained by three juniors — Irving, Robinson and junior forward Dom Morris.
Restricted from playing in the America East Championship tournament this year, BU will have to find another outlet for postseason play, such as the NIT tournament. Even with a chance at a postseason birth, Jones said he wants his team to worry about the game at hand and take the season one day at a time.
“We definitely want to play in the postseason, that’s the goal for us. But we can’t worry about which tournament we get to. We have eight games left and we just want to worry about being our best in those eight games.”