D.J. Irving was right. It's not fair.
Boston University's star guard, who is one of the leading candidates to win America East Player of the Year, isn't allowed to play in the conference tournament. It's not due to a suspension or anything he did wrong.
It's because the America East decided that, after BU decided to leave the league for the Patriot League next season, the Terriers wouldn't be eligible for the postseason.
"It's pretty tough," Irving said. "But growing up, my mom told me not to worry about things I can't control."
This was supposed to be a big year for Joe Jones and the Terriers. Jones was fortunate. He left his Ivy coaching gig at Columbia after seven seasons and a 86-108 record to join Steve Donahue's staff at Boston College. After just one season, Jones was back as a Division I coach, taking over at BU when Pat Chambers left for Penn State.
The Terriers finished 16-16 last season and 12-4 in league play. Despite the loss of Player of the Year Darryl Partin, BU was the heavy preseason favorite this season. Until the higher-ups decided to place academics over athletics and go the Patriot League route. The decision to leave the America East resulted in the conference deciding to omit BU from the postseason tourney. That ultimately resulted in all-league forward Jake O'Brien, the lone senior on the team, leaving for Temple.
"I understood why Jake left," Jones said, "and we truly wish him the best."
The 6-foot-8 O'Brien was a double-digit scorer during each of his first three seasons before missing all of last season with a foot injury. He and Irving would have been a brutal one-two punch for A-East opponents.
Jones said it was extremely difficult to digest the news at first. He was in discussions about potentially going to the Patriot League but had no idea that his team -- and other BU teams that compete in the America East -- would be banned from the postseason. However, Jones said his kids have handled it extremely well since being informed of the news by BU athletic director Mike Lynch.
"I felt really bad for my guys," Jones said. "But they've been unbelievable. They've done an amazing job not feeling sorry for themselves."
"We realize that making the NCAA tournament as an at-large team would be pretty tough," Irving said. "But we can still make the NIT. That's the goal."
BU would get an automatic NIT berth if it can win the regular-season title.
"We have a good team," Irving said. "We can pull off something special."
There's Irving, who averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 assists last season. Junior forward Dom Morris earned a spot on the All-Rookie team, and sophomore forward Travis Robinson started 28 games a year ago. Add that to the fact that the league isn't overly strong this season, with Vermont and Stony Brook considered the favorites following O'Brien's departure.
"We're small, scrappy and very fast," Irving said. "We just need to rebound and defend. If we do that, we've got a chance."
However, these kids should have the opportunity for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, not the NIT. They didn't do anything wrong.
"I don't think it's fair," Irving said, "but things happen for a reason."