We get down to the nitty gritty with SB Nation's Boston College site, BC Interruption, to find out what's going on with their program these days and what BC can do to take down the undefeated Virginia Cavaliers. We also answered some of their questions over here.
Streaking The Lawn: BC is coming off of three losing seasons, including two seasons with sub-10 wins total. What's their problem, anyway?
BC Interruption: Well, it became increasingly clear to everyone involved that Steve Donahue wasn't the answer for Boston College. So the problem was addressed over the offseason, when AD Brad Bates fired Donahue and replaced him with Ohio's Jim Christian. Donahue took a senior laden-Al Skinner build team to the NIT -- narrowly missing the tournament -- in his first year at the helm. From there, it's been all downhill with three straight losing seasons. Last year was particularly painful as it seemed as though Donahue lost the locker room early in the season. Ultimately, Donahue's undoing was an inability to recruit at an ACC level. That, and a de-emphasis on defense. Donahue's teams were uber-efficient on offense. It was the defense that was painfully bad. As Virginia fans are well aware, all offense and zero defense is not a winning formula in the ACC.
STL: BC had a pretty rough start to the season, but looked to turn the corner when they faced - and dominated - a handful of cupcake teams. Unfortunately, that was followed with an 0-3 start to ACC play. Was there anything noticeably different - other than level of competition - between their stretch of four straight wins as compared with their stretch of four straight losses?
BCI: I think it was mostly the level of competition. Obviously starting the year off at Cameron Indoor vs. Duke isn't how Jim Christian would have liked his ACC debut to go. It was clear the two programs are on an uneven playing field with respect to the talent on the roster. Duke is Duke, and Boston College rocks a roster that's been ravaged by punching below its weight on the recruiting trail several years running now. BC should have won the Pitt game, but choked away that game in spectacular fashion (up 10 with three minutes to play, up 6 with a minute to play). Then they played OK, not great, at Miami but still managed a shot to tie the game with a minute to go. So, bludgeoned by Duke, should've beaten Pitt and a close call at Miami is about what I would have expected of this team going into the season.
STL: Virginia's pack line defense is particularly susceptible to good three-point shooting teams. Looking down your roster, I don't see anyone who is a true downtown threat. Is that accurate?
BCI: It's odd that the three-point shooting just hasn't been there this year, particularly when last year's offense was built on the three-ball (and BC didn't lose much in the way of three-point shooters other than Rahon). Losing a guy like Lonnie Jackson -- arguably BC's best standup three-point shooter -- is a factor, but I don't think that tells the whole story. Rahon is also a loss, but I think his production has been replaced by grad transfers Aaron Brown and Dimitri Batten.
I was curious so I just took a look at the year-over-year three-point shooting percentages. As a team, they are down 6% year over year on three-pointers. The biggest culprits seem to be Hanlan (down 9%) and Heckmann (down 8%). Their shots just aren't falling the way they were a year ago. Over the past few games, we have noticed Christian's offenses look completely lost against the zone, so, thinking out loud, wondering if they just aren't getting as good of looks as they did last year with Donahue's offensive sets.
For the game tomorrow, Hanlan could give Virginia fits if the shots start falling. Old Dominion transfer Dimitri Batten has been the best three-point shooter on the team so far (13-of-35, .371) but his impact on games seems to vary on a game-by-game basis. I suppose guys like Brown or Heckmann could get hot as well. Heckmann, in particular, looked good in the OT session vs. Harvard and may carry some of that momentum over into the Virginia game. At least that's the hope.
STL: Let's be honest, it doesn't matter, does it? Somehow, the basketball gods are going to think it'll be fun to have a BC player have a career night from long distance, right?
BCI: Heh. Well, I suppose it's possible, but nothing I've seen so far this season leads me to believe that the shots are just gonna start falling in bunches for Boston College on Saturday. Not against an opponent with the defensive prowess of Virginia. That said, all it takes is 1-2 guards to get hot and it wouldn't be unprecedented. Hanlan and Rahon two years ago vs. Virginia, and Reggie Jackson and Biko Paris two years before that. Tony Bennett is still winless in Chestnut Hill as head coach of the 'Hoos (0-3), so who knows, really.
STL: Once again, Olivier Hanlan is BC's most prolific scorer. What's the secret to containing him and what have other teams struggled to do against him?
BCI: Actually, Hanlan went through a pretty prolonged offensive funk a few games back. He seems to have emerged a bit from that slump but for a span of about five games, he wasn't the Olivier Hanlan that BC fans had gotten used to seeing night in and night out. Luckily for BC, that offensive slump happened over a fairly manageable stretch of non-conference play -- Dayton, Marist, PC, Maine, Binghamton, USC and Lowell -- so it didn't have too much of an impact on the overall W-L record.
One thing Harvard seemed to do well against Hanlan was put a bigger body up against him. Amaker had Siyani Chambers guarding him but switched by putting the bigger Wesley Saunders up against him. It was pretty effective in limiting his effectiveness on offense, but as the game wore on, and particularly in OT, I think Saunders got a little tired and Hanlan was able to hit consecutive layups by slashing to the hoop.
STL: I guess we want to know your overall thoughts on Virginia and your prediction for what happens here.
BCI: Well, I think Virginia will win, obviously, but I think BC will put their best foot forward in this spot. Virginia has one of, if not THE best defense in the country, but the pack-line is built to stop penetration. BC just doesn't have a lot of front court presence -- they typically roll with 3 guards, a wing and Clifford / Magarity -- so I'm not sure how much of a factor it will truly be. A limited number of possessions would also seem to favor BC a bit, particularly if one or two of the guards get hot from the perimeter. I said 75-49 UVa earlier in the week, but BC's really stepped up the play on defense this year. So I'm gonna backtrack a bit and say 65-50. The game won't ever feel close but BC plays hard and keeps it from getting out of hand throughout.