Everywhere Gary Williams goes, the concept of "overachieving" follows his teams. The image is of tough players, small players with skinned knees who always seem to get better results than they're supposed to.
That image will accompany Williams and his Boston College Eagles into the hallowed Boston Garden at 8 p.m. Saturday when second-ranked Georgetown visits for a Big East game.
It's been three years since Williams left American University. But his style hasn't changed, nor has his team's. The Eagles are 16-5, but many people -- even those who watch a lot of college basketball -- have a hard time naming any Boston College player other than point guard Michael Adams.
Yet, the Eagles pose a serious threat to Georgetown, which is trying to avoid a third consecutive conference defeat. Don't tell the Hoyas that Boston College is short on talent and simply a bunch of overachievers.
Williams said this morning, "I think our players get tired of hearing that sometimes. We have better players than people give them credit for being. It's just like at American: people look at the size of the team and use that to measure how good you are.
"When we're introduced, they see a 6-foot-5 forward, a 6-7 center and say, 'What are you doing? You can't play against Georgetown or Syracuse with that.' "
The Eagles have been doing pretty well with the players they have. Boston College has won five straight, three of them in the Big East, including a scintillating upset of Syracuse this week.
"If anybody had told us in August we'd be 16-5 right now, we'd take that," Williams said. "Very quickly. Especially the way the league is this year."
It wasn't too long ago that the Eagles were really struggling. After starting 10-0, they lost five of six games and fell out of the top 20.
The pollsters aren't very patient with teams perceived as overachievers. Being ranked is always a topic of discussion around here. Probably, there aren't 15 teams in the country that are better than the Eagles.
"It's a funny thing," Williams said. "I thought we played pretty well when we were ranked. See, we just don't have the respect. I've seen some teams hanging around the top 20 that can't play with us, I don't think. And yet, they lose, even get blown out, and stay in the top 20.
"For some reason, when we lose, we're gone. 'Get 'em out of there.' We lose to St. John's, the No. 1 team in the country, and get knocked out of the rankings. That bothers our players a little bit. But I kinda like how it serves as motivation for them. I like what it does to them."
Chances are, just the sight of Georgetown (20-2) will be all the motivation Boston College will need Saturday night. The Eagles took Georgetown into overtime before losing earlier this season at Capital Centre.
Whether they're overachieving or just reaching their potential, Williams intends to have the Eagles pretty well tuned by the time they walk into the Garden. Three more victories would probably assure Boston College of its second NCAA bid in three years.
Williams doesn't think that's a minor accomplishment. He talked today about how important winning was this season, following the loss of Martin Clark at the end of last season after a series of confrontations between player and coach.
"I thought a lot about it," Williams said. "During that thing, I questioned whether I should stay in coaching, if it was going to be like that. Is that what I wanted with my life?
"But I felt good about what I did last year. My conscience was clear. I didn't see anything that I did wrong. What got me through it was that the players never wavered. They stayed very tight with me. They wrote letters to the Boston Globe (in his support), and they came into this year flying.
"I was really motivated, too, coming into this year. I was worried, because of the strength of the league, that we might not have a good record this year, and people would associate that with what happened at the end of last year."
All associations, so far, have been pretty positive for Williams and his team. He's even making a conscious attempt to tone down his emotional behavior on the bench.
But what might calm Williams even more is the construction of a new 9,000-seat campus arena that could help him recruit some of the talented players (talented big players) who would alter the team's image as small and scrappy -- and help the Eagles win more. "It would be great to be able to recruit with all of the weapons," Williams said.
For now, Williams might be a little short on weapons. But the ones he has have done considerable damage. Saturday, and probably for the rest of the season, his Eagles will play hard; they'll press on defense and run on offense. And people will say they overachieve. It's not the worst thing that could be said about a team, or its coach.