Opponent: Boston College
Location: Chestnut Hill, MA
Date: Saturday , January 17
Time: 2:00 ET
Channel: RSN (FIOS 576, Comcast 251)
At 8-7 (0-3 ACC), Boston College sits near the bottom of the ACC standings, tied with Virginia Tech and 1/2 game ahead of the Yellow Jackets (Virginia's next opponent following the BC game). RPI ranks the Eagles 3rd to last in the ACC, ahead of VT and FSU. ESPN's BPI ranks them 107th, ahead of Clemson, FSU and VT. KenPom agrees, ranking BC 120.
They have lost all 3 of their ACC games, including a home loss to Pitt. That said, they played Miami tough on the road this past weekend, prior to their mid-week win over Harvard. They also played West Virginia tough in San Juan back in November. Aside from getting blown out at Duke (no shame in that), they have really been in all of their games. Their only other double-digit loss came to Dayton in San Juan, which was a 2 point game with 4 minutes remaining.
Coach Jim Christian has the Eagles playing tough defense, ranking 78th in the nation in defensive efficiency. They pressure the basketball, they force turnovers and they contest perimeter shots. Where they struggle is on the inside, with just 3 rotation players over 6'5" and just 1 over 240 pounds. Their bigs all have a tendency to get into foul trouble. Backup C Will Magarity averages nearly 8 fouls per 40 minutes, which severely limits the amount of time he can be on the floor.
While their defense has been solid, they've struggled offensively. The loss of Ryan Anderson has been a huge problem on that end of the floor. Olivier Hanlan was very good last year, shooting over 35% from 3 and leading the team in offensive efficiency. This year, he has been below average offensively, shooting just 26% from downtown. Meanwhile his usage rate has skyrocketed. Hanlan has one of the higher usage rates among major conference players. Simply put, he's killing the Eagles offense, despite leading the team at over 16 ppg. The Eagles second weapon is SF Aaron Brown (14.4 ppg). Brown has been better than Hanlan, but is still shooting just under 32% from downtown and using a ton of possessions. At least Hanlan is a good passer. Hanlan and Brown combine for nearly 60% of the team's shots while they are on the floor.
Contrary to popular belief, Virginia's Pack Line Defense is not unbeatable. An offense that can spread the floor with shooters while a lead guard gets dribble penetration can cause all sorts of problems for the Pack Line. We've seen that this year against VCU, among others. BC is not that team. While Hanlan is certainly capable of getting penetration, they do not have shooters. And Hanlan has struggled to finish his own shots in the paint this year as well. BC also isn't a very good offensive rebounding team, which does not bode well.
BC, like Clemson, is a solid defensive team that struggles on the offensive end. BC's offense is worse than Clemson's, although their defense is a bit better. They also play defense differently. BC wants to force turnovers, whereas Clemson was content to simply contest shots. The Hoos generally do not turn the ball over, which should give them an edge. As with most matchups this year, the Hoos should have a big advantage on the interior.
Anytime you go on the road in conference, there is potential for a loss. Just ask Duke, Wisconsin, Louisville, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, or Ohio State. (Those are all top 25 teams that lost road conference games this past weekend.) That being said, BC doesn't match up very well with the Hoos. Putting Malcolm Brogdon on Hanlan and Justin Anderson on Aaron Brown has a very good chance of shutting down BC's offense. That would leave London Perrantes on SG Dimitri Batten, a good shooter who isn't as aggressive offensively as his teammates. On the other end, Dennis Clifford is the only real interior defensive presence the Eagles have, which means Patrick Heckmann is going to have to match up against Anthony Gill inside. That is a tough matchup for him. Keeping Gill out of foul trouble, and on the floor, would really help the Hoos. Gill has averaged just 22 mpg just 7.5 ppg over the past 4 games. He could get back on track in this matchup.
Ken Pomeroy suggests a 65-51 win for the Hoos. The Hoos will certainly take that win, but here at STL, we're hoping for another Pack Line Pledge game (sub 50 for the Eagles).The Eagles probably aren't as bad as their record shows, since they've been in nearly all of their games. Sitting at 0-3 in the ACC, they'd love to get going with a win over the #2 team in the country. They may not have the horses, especially on the inside.