Saturday, January 26, 2013

game preview: Boston College

Date/Time: Saturday, January 26; 1:00


Record against the Eagles: 8-6

Last matchup: UVA 66, BC 49; 1/26/12, Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 74, VT 58 (1/24); Md. 64, BC 59 (1/22)


UVA: 59.6 (#345)
BC: 64.9 (#244)

UVA: 103.3 (#114)
BC: 106.1 (#71)

UVA: 85.9 (#10)
BC: 101.4 (#196)

UVA: .8689 (#32)
BC: .6143 (#124)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (3.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 4.0 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (15.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF: Evan Nolte (7.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.8 apg)

Boston College:

PG: Joe Rahon (10.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.8 apg)
SG: Lonnie Jackson (10.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.1 apg)
SG: Olivier Hanlon (13.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.6 apg)
SG: Patrick Heckmann (8.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg)
PF: Ryan Anderson (16.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.5 apg)

Last night can only be called a rousing success; the truth is there's no better place to win a game than Cassell Coliseum.  Oh, you have to defend your home court and win for your fans, to be sure, but there's something extra-special satisfying in sending a full house of Hokies (the ones that aren't Tar Heel fans) home muttering about football season, which too bad for them is eight months away.

There's not much time to enjoy it, though.  The turnaround time is something less than 40 hours, and Boston College shows up in the JPJA.  BC had some stumbles in the non-conference schedule and sports an ugly ACC record, but the scores of their conference games could mean they're a more dangerous team than they look.

-- UVA on offense

It's too bad Darion Atkins is likely to once again sit out, because Steve Donahue has been employing a four-guard lineup of late, and I'd like to see one of them try and guard Atkins and/or Akil Mitchell.  But we're here for the game that will be played on the court, not in my fantasies.  The four-guard lineup may be just the thing for defending UVA's recent three-point barrage; the truth is that Harris and Nolte basically comprise the taller half of a four-guard lineup themselves.

However, like VT, BC is a team unlikely to create many turnovers.  UVA did a great job taking care of the ball against Tech, because the Hokies didn't hardly ever get into the passing lanes.  BC is similarly weak in the steals department, and except for when backup center Dennis Clifford gets into the game, they aren't a shot-blocking team either.  They'll try to keep you in front of them and they don't play overly aggressive.  It keeps them out of foul trouble, but teams are shooting three-pointers quite well against them.

BC is actually an excellent defensive rebounding team, thanks almost entirely to the sterling efforts of Ryan Anderson, the only forward in the starting lineup, as well as Clifford.  Both are terrific on the boards, particularly Anderson; were they not, BC probably would go from the top to the bottom of the defensive rebounding percentage barrel in a heartbeat.  Akil Mitchell could have some room to work against Anderson, though.  He has about 15 pounds on Anderson and should BC try to double him, Mitchell will probably find it easier than usual to pass out of it.  If Anderson is assigned to Mike Tobey, Tobey will again look to shoot jump shots over his head the way he's been doing with ever-increasing confidence lately.  Clifford is another matter; he's a seven footer and a quality defender, likely to neutralize whoever he guards and give lane drivers a tough time.

The bottom line, more or less, is that UVA will again have room to shoot the threes that've carried them to victory recently.  And as a bonus, they should be able to supplement that with some work in the post.  The 1.2 points-per-possession output in the VT game was probably about the best we'll see all year, but BC might also leave the Hoos some room to operate.

-- UVA on defense

The Eagles' offense is surprisingly decent for a team struggling to keep its head above water.  I said in their season preview that they would be improved but their record might not show it, and the results so far reflect that pretty well.  They kept pace with NC State's powerful offense and put a fright into Miami as well; they had mid-second-half leads in both games before succumbing to a talent deficit.

I also said in that preview that Lonnie Jackson might be shooting his way out of a job.  He shot his way back in since I said that.  In the last six games he's been hitting three-pointers at a .564 clip, and he's boosted his percentage from .273 then to .400 now.  Freshman Patrick Heckmann has meanwhile cooled off, with his success rate dropping from over .500 to .355 now.

It's important to look at those percentages because the Eagles will attempt a lot of threes.  All four of their starting guards have taken four a game, or closer to six in Jackson's case.  Over 40% of BC's shots are threes, which puts them in the top 25 in the country in that respect.  They also draw a ton of fouls; that again is Ryan Anderson's doing, along with quick-moving freshman guard Olivier Hanlon.  Anderson has blossomed as a go-to scorer, displaying a wide array of post moves and making himself incredibly difficult to guard.  Hanlon has earned multiple selections as the ACC's freshman of the week, and despite a very modest three-point percentage, is BC's second-leading scorer and has also proven he can fill it in a variety of ways.

UVA will likely use the low-post double team copiously on Anderson.  Mitchell will be an interesting matchup on him; his length and athleticism will make for some interesting battles.  Anderson likes to fall away as much as he likes to attack the rim.  One major advantage the Hoos will have everywhere else, though, is size.  Especially when the four guards are in, UVA will be much bigger and longer at most positions; the exception is point guard, where Jontel Evans isn't usually bigger than anyone.  But Joe Rahon is a freshman and Evans a senior, and Rahon has done a nice job this year but Evans will be a new experience for him.

This could be a dangerous matchup; Steve Donahue is instilling some decent basketball into the Eagles, who do an excellent job of taking care of the ball and look like they've developed some nice offensive cohesion.  But they're one of the few conference teams less experienced than UVA, playing on the road on Saturday, and Tony's defense has been a well-oiled machine lately.

-- Outlook

I can't believe I'm about to say this, since we have such a freshman-powered team and half a frontcourt, but experience and size ought to tip the game in UVA's favor.  The former mainly because it's on the road, and the latter because UVA has very deceptive size; big guards that can match up with BC's four (normal-sized) guards lineup.  At some point this season Boston College will upend someone who isn't paying attention.  They're 1-4, yes, but thanks to four very close losses and a demolition win over VT, their total point margin in conference play is only -4.  Only NC State has generated better conference-only offensive efficiency than the Eagles.  That said, the Hoos are on a roll, and the short layoff is usually a good thing when you're on a roll.  I like UVA to keep up the good work.

Final score: UVA 65, BC 55


Anonymous said...

Always viewed this year as ... sort of a mulligan, for lack of a better term right now. Jontel was the transition class, the Bennett 6 became 2, and Brogdon redshirted. Whatever positive happened would be the appetizer for a loaded squad next year.

And yet ... the more I watch this team, the more I think they will stay in most games this year, and a bounce here or there ... a few times ... could find us in the postseason. NIT would be fine, NCAA's would be great.

When you look at the squad, it doesn't excite you. Arguably, our best individual talents are the freshmen. There's not much size, some spotty point guard play, and no one that can really create. Add in the youth, and it was hard to have very confident postseason expectations. Yet, Akil Mitchell, the same Akil who was arguably the 6th guy of the Bennett 6, the same Akil that is still sort of a tweener ... he's doing a solid job filling in for Mike Scott. You can see the post potential with Tobey if he fills out. If Anderson's shot becomes steady, he's a possible 1st round, next level talent. Nolte's stroke is excellent and he's doing a capable job at the stretch 4 spot, not an ideal fit for him.

Atkins coming back would really give this year's team a boost, but I'm not holding out hope for that. Atkins not being here does give the kids experience, which should help next year, when we also get a burlier post presence in Gill.

All in all, very pleased with this basketball season. Tony Bennett is getting a lot out of an iffy squad.

Anonymous said...

Goddamn, if we'd only been able to put in a full game against Clemson or Wake Forest. We'd be sitting pretty now. Not looking forward to going up against Miami, NC State, or Duke. But at least we can see some continual progress on the team. I dunno, just my two cents on that.