Friday, February 25, 2011

game preview: Boston College

Date/Time: Sat., February 26; 12:00


History against the Eagles: 7-5

Last matchup: BC 70, UVA 67; 1/18/11; Boston

Last game: UVA 62, GT 56 (2/23); Miami 74, BC 63 (2/23)

Opposing blogs: BC Interruption, Eagle in Atlanta


National: UVA #108; BC #70
Offense: UVA #140; BC #14
Defense: UVA #83; BC #225

If you want to see what might have been, if any of the woulda-coulda-shouldas had come through (not collapsing against Miami, beating Wake Forest like we were supposed to, etc.) look no further than Boston College. One game separates these teams in the ACC standings, and Boston College is praying for an NCAA tournament bid while UVA's best shot is probably a low seed in the NIT. Yes, there's Seattle. BC has Yale. We are on the brink, folks. Next year. Just wait.

Meantime, there's Boston College, and the shoestring tournament bids riding on this one qualify it for EPIC SHOWDOWN status. So I turned to BC Interruption to learn more about the Eagles. Standard Q&A wizardry. The other half is there at BCI, as usual you are compelled to click over to find out more about my own take on things. Including that which I almost never do unless asked: a prediction and score.

1. How are BC's tournament hopes?

Hanging on by a thread.

BC's 16-11 (6-7 ACC) record isn't much to look at, but the Eagles' benefit from strong resume numbers, including an RPI of 50 and a conference-best SOS of 16. Now, about that 3-7 record in their last 10 ...

Given BC's strong resume numbers, all they have to do is start winning again. Three wins to end the regular season, plus a decent-to-above average showing in the ACC Tournament probably gets BC in. If the season ended today, the Eagles' would probably find themselves playing in Dayton on a Tuesday. Next week's mid-week game against the Hokies is probably an NCAA Tournament eliminator. Cage match style.

2. BC graduates something like eight seniors, and Steve Donahue inherited a program with literally zero scholarship underclassmen for 2010-11 and had to scramble to put together a recruiting class. What's the outlook for next year?


BC graduates Trapani, Raji, Paris, Southern and Dunn next season, and will be left with these players who have gotten significant minutes this year: Reggie Jackson (34.0 minutes), Danny Rubin (18.5), Dallas Elmore (16.3) and Gabe Moton (13.8).

Next year, Donahue will have Matt Humphrey, a transfer from Oregon, and six incoming recruits. Four of the six hail from Southern California -- PG Jordan Daniels, SG Lonnie Jackson, PF Ryan Anderson and C Kyle Caudill. Donahue is also bringing in SF Eddie Odio (Miami, FL) and PF Dennis Clifford (Milton, MA). So while Donahue is doing a good job reloading and bringing in players to fit his system, it will likely be a slow process ... and a LONG season next year.

3. How about further down the line? Is Donahue the right guy for BC basketball?

I think so. Far soon to tell, though. Donahue is playing with house money this year, and the fact that we are even talking about the NCAA Tournament as the calendar hits March is a good sign for his long-term prospects. Donahue took a less-talented roster of players that don't fit his system and has already won more games than last year's team ... against a much more difficult schedule. Opposing team writers and fans seem to come away from watching BC games stating that the Eagles are a very well-coached team.

Only two knocks so far on Donahue: home attendance and defense. I think the former will improve over time as Donahue builds a winner at BC. The latter ... well ...

4. Why does BC have a really good, efficient offense - rated 2nd-best in the ACC by KenPom - but they can't stop anyone on defense?

Over the last few years, BC has had a higher offensive efficiency than defensive efficiency. Defense was one of the team's flaws under Skinner that led to a change at the top. But this year, the offensive-defensive bipolarity is off the charts. I can't put my finger on the root cause. Sure, BC gets killed in the paint without a true big man on the floor, and this team gives significant minutes to three walk-ons, but even still, the defense shouldn't be that bad.

Donahue's teams at Cornell followed the same pattern -- highly-efficient offenses and porous defenses. Hopefully this problem gets better as he brings in guys to fit his system. The defense has to improve though, because there's nowhere to go but up.

5. Eight seconds left, BC is down by 2, with the ball, and Reggie Jackson just fouled out. Who's taking the shot?

Joe Trapani.

Trapani has been a workhorse for the Eagles over the last 10 games, averaging 16.5 points a game and 4 double-doubles over that span. A transfer from Vermont, Trap doesn't have the raw talent and athleticism that Reggie Jackson has, but he makes up for it with effort. Trapani can beat you on the dribble or drain the three ball. A lot of fans have a love-hate relationship with Trapani, but he's really come on strong down the stretch this season, and he'll certainly be missed next year.

6. Prediction?

A big, big test for Steve Donahue and the Eagles. Win, stop the bleeding, and keep your NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Lose and BC probably ends up hosting an NIT game in front of 5,000 fans. Being the homer that I am, I think Donahue gets this team to respond on the road, and we live to see another day. Then again, in typical BC fashion, it will be far too close for our liking ... 68-66 Eagles.

Beaucoup gracias to BCI. And best of luck in the cage match.


- Patience. Shots will come. BC's defense has gotten even worse since we played them. They can't force turnovers, and teams always find good shots. There are a multitude of ways to score on the Eagles. Patience, fortunately, is a strong suit of ours.

- Defend the paint better. Last time did not go well for the Hoos down low. BC, normally a good three-shooting team, shot very poorly from long range, but made up for it with stellar work in the paint. Center Josh Southern had four assists and no turnovers. That can't happen; for a big, Southern's a good passer, but not that good. Joe Trapani was 7-for-10 inside the arc. Southern, 3-for-4. And BC had 25 free throw attempts. Hopefully Will Sherrill can play more than just five minutes. Assane Sene will need to be a major presence and must stay out of foul trouble. BC's offense is one of the country's most efficient and very difficult to stop, and UVA has to at least make them work for their points.


- BC shoots like BC. They were an uncharacteristic 6-for-21 from long range in the last meeting, which helped keep the game close. They're much better than that.

- Let Joe Trapani get going. Trapani is a UVA-killer. As nasty-good as Reggie Jackson is, Trapani's the real matchup nightmare in my book. When UVA beats BC, Trapani is invisible, but otherwise he's all over the floor. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell will probably be assigned to guard him, and they've got to find a way to make him one-dimensional, preferably by keeping him out of the paint as much as possible.


BC is so damn bipolar it's ridiculous. I don't think you'll find another team in the country with such a huge spread between their offensive and defensive effectiveness, the latter of which has gotten even worse since last time. Of course, I don't buy into the idea that they're struggling, either - sure, they're 2-6 since our last meeting, but UNC and Duke account for half those losses, and FSU a fourth. It's been a tough schedule since January 19, and they've swept Maryland this year. The only actual bad loss was the latest, against Miami, which is only going to serve to piss them off.

And yet, I like what I see. UVA is 3-3 in the last six and frankly, none of the losses were uncompetitive, despite what the Duke score said. This team has had the willpower to beat back adversity in the last two games. They're playing like they're on a mission, even if nobody's real sure what the mission is. The BC offense is highly efficient, but not unstoppable, and the UVA defense has been getting much better, game by game. And of course, BC can be scored on. As long as shots are falling at the rate they should, the chances look good for a third straight win.

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