[Updated 12:10 p.m. with a link at the end to BCI's Q&A with us.]
Coming off competitive 30-minute games against North Carolina and Duke, the Cavaliers look to face Boston College tonight, a team that, somehow, is 3-1 in the conference, despite losses to Harvard and Yale. We had the opportunity to sit down via email with the fine folks over at BC Interruption to get their take on the game, and more importantly, to do our scouting for us so that we didn't have to.
Streaking the Lawn: I'm confused. The Eagles lose to Harvard and Yale, but rattle off three wins to open ACC play? What has been the difference there?
BC Interruption: Welcome to 2010-11 Boston College basketball. First year coach Steve Donahue has brought a completely different offensive philosophy to the Heights, one that relies heavily on the three ball. In the Yale game, Donahue didn't play Cornell walk-on turned BC walk-on (and 3-point specialist) Danny Rubin, and he took a lot of the blame for the loss as a result. In the Harvard game, BC played poor defense and didn't protect the basketball, and the result was the Eagles' third straight loss to Harvard. I think that Harvard is/was also in BC's head a bit after two straight years of losing to the Crimson, and I'm sure that had something to do with it.
While the offensive philosophy is completely different under Donahue, some things remain the same. This year, it's the defense. Donahue has switched it up and throws a lot of 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones at opponents, instead of the man-to-man that Skinner employed most of the time. The end result is the same, however: just poor defense.
I really believe that BC can hang with anyone in the country when they are shooting well from range. It's the defense that has been suspect and let teams like Yale and Harvard in games they should otherwise not be in.
STL: Reggie Jackson was a big factor last year, but he's been straight up dominant this year. Assuming he plays on Wednesday, what's the key for Virginia to stop him, short of causing further bodily injury?
BCI: Reggie is having a tremendous year, no doubt. He's averaging 19.6 a game, which is up nearly seven points from his average last year. In our last two ACC games, Jackson has added 51 points (29 against State and 22 at Miami) en route to being named last week's ACC Co-Player of the Week. He's easily a first team All-ACC selection and may be on a short list of ACC POY candidates.
Jackson is going to get his points. Probably the key to stopping him is to making him really uncomfortable on offense, possibly doubling down on him (in favor of covering one of BC's big men - Josh Southern or Cortney Dunn). Jackson twisted his ankle on the final shot of the Miami game on Saturday, so UVA should test him early and often to see if there's any lingering effect from his ankle injury last game.
STL: For the most part, Virginia lacks a big inside presence, though Assane Sene has shown drastic improvement in the past couple games. How is BC in this regard, and what should Virginia keep an eye out for?
BCI: The short answer is BC probably most resembles Virginia in our lack of a big inside presence. Josh Southern has his games, and he's coming off his best performance in ACC play this season (13 points, 8 boards against Miami). After having some really solid games against smaller, less physical teams - 16 against UMass, 16 vs. Providence, 18 vs. Bryant, 16 vs. Bucknell - Southern hasn't been much of a factor since ACC play started back up for the Eagles.
Southern can burn you if you leave him open, but he's not a dominant figure in the BC front court. Neither is Cortney Dunn for that matter.
In BC's new offense, Southern will get a few points in the paint, but the focus is still on the perimeter with Biko Paris, Reggie Jackson, Danny Rubin, Joe Trapani and Corey Raji all capable of killin' it from three.
STL: BC was picked preseason to finish 10th in the conference - I certainly consider the Eagles the big surprise of the season. What's your confidence level at right now on how this team will compete as we get deeper into league play?
BCI: To be perfectly honest, I'm really not that confident. BC still has big holes on the offensive side of the ball in the front court, and huge, gaping holes on defense. Like I said, I think BC can keep up the scoring with anyone in the country when they are shooting well. But with the lack of an inside presence and questionable defense, BC is leaving themselves open to some shocking wins and some questionable losses down the stretch.
The schedule gets appreciably more difficult over the next few games, too, with a brutal seven game stretch - at Florida State, at Duke, UNC, Virginia Tech, at Clemson, Maryland, at North Carolina - where I really don't see BC winning more than three of those games.
Then again, things are really starting to look like its' a down year in the ACC, so BC could sneak into one of the top four spots when it's all said and done.
If I had to wager a guess, I'd say BC will win seven more regular season games to get to 20-10 (10-6). Depending on how the Eagles perform in the ACC Tournament, I'd say they'll be soundly on the bubble when Selection Sunday rolls around.
STL: Prediction time. How badly does BC lose to Virginia and how is this game going down?
BCI: I don't get a good read on this game. I would say that BC would win easily, but two close calls against Duke and North Carolina give me pause. I think this will be a closer game than the experts predict. I think the Cavaliers and Eagles will play fairly even for more than 35 minutes before BC hits some timely threes and puts the game away. As for a final prediction, I'll go with the home team, naturally, because I'm a homer. Boston College 80, Virginia 74.
We answered a few questions for the folks over at BCI as well -- be sure to check them out here.