In only eight weeks, the Boston College basketball season has gone from a nightmare to a dream of sweet satisfaction.
Allegations of point-shaving involving three members of the 1978-79 Eagle team have followed the current squad everywhere and have been well chronicled. But BC has shaken the stigma and having beaten Ball State and 11th-ranked Wake Forest in the first two rounds of the Mideast region semi-finals Friday at Bloomington, Ind.
Since the middle of January , when Boston College became synonymous with "scandal," the Eagles have played as well or better than any team in the East. They won the Big East regular-season title and have a 23-6 record.
This defensive-minded team, with little experience and even less natural talent, has a chance to advance to the final eight with a victory over giant-slayer St. Joseph's Friday night (7:08 EST).
Coach Tom Davis and several players were shocked when nearly 700 fans greeted the team upon its return home at 4 a.m. Monday, hours after beating Wake Forest.
"I couldn't believe it," Davis was quoted as saying. "I was truly moved. It's a tribute, I guess, to the kids on this team. I think the students genuinely like them, all the hustling and team defense."
Execution on the court is only part of it. Anybody who has seen Boston College this season has to be impressed with the way the team performed while being ambushed with questions and insults about a situation not concerning these players.
"We've purposely tried to separate the team and the incident," Athletic Director William J. Flynn said Tuesday. "We don't associate the two. Sure, it was difficult initially, but nobody around here talks about it any more. Just basketball now."
Dwan Chandler, the team's second-leading scorer and primary ball handler, said that after initially "wondering about the possibility of being put on probation, the situation was easy to ignore because it didn't involve any of the guys on this team.
"there was nothing we could do to erase it," he said, "so it became an extra incentive, at least it did for me."
Chandler said BC's upset loss to last-place Providence in the first round of the Big East tournament two weeks ago was more disappointing than "the other thing."
"At that time," he said, "I was hoping we could just get in the NCAA tournament and play hard. I just hoped we would make a good showing. But we turned that letdown into an incentive, too. The letdown after the Providence game actually got us better prepared for the NCAA tournament.
"It taught us to stick to the things we do best, the things that made us successful this season: defense and being patient. I never thought previously that we could do it this year," Chandler said. "But I realized then that we have the chemistry. People have knocked the Big East all season, but the conference teams -- especially Providencd -- helped us get this far."
Flynn says he is holding his breath, hoping the team can continue its success. "I don't think the stigma will ever go away," the athletic director said. "The media won't let it. It'll be with us for 50 years, just like the other schools it happened to."
But Chandler, who has refused to let any Eagle become despondent after a crucial mistake or a defeat, is more optimistic. "I'm hoping a victory Sunday, which would put us in the final four, will help shift the emphasis from the prior situation to how this unit has performed so well all season on the basketball court. This is a good basketball unit.
"Throughout this season, the program stuck together. If there is such a thing as the 15th guy on this team, he feels as much a part of our unit as the five starters. We've already convinced the people in this (Boston) area of that.And a couple of hard-fought victories this weekend would go a long way toward convincing everybody else."