Early in this season, after finishing the non-conference season on a run, I told myself "If Bzdelik could somehow push this team to a 9-9 ACC record, I would avidly support bringing him back for next year". 3 wins, 5 losses, and a great recruiting victory later, I have been leaning more and more towards keeping Bzdelik here. His very young team has grown very much, and I can see a great future for the Deacs. Going 9-9 and finishing .500 in the conference (not to mention a positive overall record) would be great for coaches, players, and fans alike. But, after losing 4 of our last 5 games, the possibility may seem slim. However, after studying the schedule a bit, it becomes apparent that it isn't such an enormous stretch after all. Let's look at our next 3 games:
At North Carolina
Vs. Florida State
For the 9-9 season to be the most realistic, we need to pick up a road win at either Maryland or North Carolina. I am targeting Maryland, because after watching them play a few games, I have felt that we could beat the often low-scoring terrapins. We haven't played well on the road, but we desperately need this win. Not only to bring our record to 4-5, but to keep morale up with the players so that they can continue to play with the passion and emotion we saw Wednesday against Duke.
Let's say that we pick up a win over Maryland, lose against North Carolina, then have another great home showing and defeat Florida State (easier said than done, but the team is certainly capable of it). Hopefully the tye-dye nation comes back out for that game. That would leave us at 5-6. Before the season, fans would've probably been astonished to here that we would have that record 11 games into the conference season.
After looking at the Deacs' schedule, I was surprised that (depending on the scenario I just described), we have a solid chance at pulling a 9-9 season. It will require a road win and some defending of the home court, but the teams we have to do it against are teams that we should be capable of defeating. Let's look at our schedule after the Florida State game, assuming we are 5-6 at this point, and see what I would consider the most realistic way to finish 9-9.
At Boston College- W
Vs Georgia Tech- W
Vs Miami- L
At Florida State- L
Vs Maryland- W
At NC State- L
Vs Virginia Tech- W
Take a look at the wins I have us getting here. The toughest team in that is Maryland, and I think taking them on at home is a very good opportunity for a win. Winning on the road at Boston College will be quite the task, but is a team that we have proven we can beat (even blow out), and if we remain focused and get the solid play across the team that we saw Wednesday, it can be done. Still, this finish providing us with a 9-9 record still relies on winning 2 of our next 3 games (Maryland, North Carolina, and Florida State).
If we are to lose our next 2 games, we will be sitting at an unfortunate 3-7. The season would look to be a bust at that point, but if our players maintained their heart and spirit, played with everything they had, and maintained a good home crowd, they could defeat Florida State and move to 4-7. Losing at Maryland and North Carolina is a likely scenario, so let's hope the boys continue to fight for it, and understand that at 3-7, their season is far from over. You see, even if they lose to Maryland and North Carolina, picking up that crucial home win against FSU would put them in a situation where if they finish their season the way that I showed above, they would be 8-10, which is still a very solid output for the young team that fans would like be happy with. However, at 4-7, there is still a slight opportunity to finish at 9-9, and that lies in the Miami game. We are lucky to have the hot Miami team at home, and if we could manage to pull off our second major upset of the season, and still pull off the other wins I listed, we would go 9-9 after falling to 3-7 at one point. I don't think that we have much chance at beating NC State on the road, because as inconsistent as they are, they are much stronger at home, and will look for blood after we beat them earlier in the season.
These players have fought really hard this season, and it has not gone without benefit. Even after losing 4 of their last 5, there are a few possible ways that we could finish .500. That is huge, especially considering that most fans would probably be happy with even 7 wins. Keep your heads up Deacs, you've given fans a hope that we haven't had in a long time, and still have a possibility at finishing this season strong. Fight through these next 2 road games, give it everything you have, stay focused, and get us a win. After that, the season will seem less impossible, and you will see a load of winnable games coming your way. Perhaps surprisingly so.