Tuesday, December 10, 2013
season preview: Boston College
Media prediction: 8th of 15
Record: 16-17 (7-11); ACC 8th seed
KenPom: 96th of 347
Returning scoring: 96.3%
Returning rebounding: 95.3%
Returning assists: 97.5%
1st team: none
2nd team: none
3rd team: Ryan Anderson
Rookie: Olivier Hanlan
(Italics indicate departed player.)
PG: Joe Rahon (So.)
SG: Olivier Hanlan (So.)
G: Alex Dragicevich (rJr.)
SF: Eddie Odio (Jr.)
PF: Ryan Anderson (Jr.)
G Lonnie Jackson (Jr.)
F Garland Owens (Fr.)
G Patrick Heckmann (Jr.)
F Will Magarity (Fr.)
C KC Caudill (Jr.)
G Danny Rubin (Sr.)
Coach: Steve Donahue (4th season)
Twice: Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia Tech
Once: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Wake Forest
Time to kick off (or maybe, more appropriately, tip off) the basketball previews. We start with one of the more interesting cases. Boston College is a program still finding its way after a visit to the very depths of awfulness. It's the fourth season of Steve Donahue's program and I still can't find a way to introduce the Eagles without mentioning the Al Skinner disaster, but it's still a dominant theme (although no longer the dominant theme) of the state of this team.
Actually, despite the losing record, it wasn't a half bad season for the Eagles in 2013. They finished with the ACC 8th seed in the tournament and knocked off Georgia Tech in the first round. The media picked them 8th again this year, but all three newcomers are ranked higher, which means the media expected them to leapfrog a few programs this year.
It wasn't a bad choice. BC returns a staggering 95+ percent of its production, as it had only one senior last year. And that senior wasn't all that good, only a bit contributor. BC returns 12 guys who registered a stat in some form or fashion (nine of them rotation regulars) and adds three freshmen and a junior transfer from Notre Dame. Surely this is a recipe for upward momentum.
Not so fast. One month into the season, BC is 3-6 and the second-worst team in KenPom's ratings. To start with, they gave themselves an ambitious schedule. Losses to UMass and UConn highlight that column, and the UConn one was close. Toledo is the top team in the MAC at the moment, and Providence is no slouch - again, a close loss. Blowout losses to USC and Purdue - neither of them especially outstanding teams - have plummeted the Eagles 26 spots in the KenPom rankings.
The lineup is very, very much a work in progress. Ten different players have started a game this year, the latest being shooting guard Lonnie Jackson back from an early-season hamstring injury. That lineup above is kind of an odd duck, with plenty of height but not much weight. Center KC Caudill is a back-of-the-rotation player and Dennis Clifford has struggled with knee problems, so BC regularly plays just one player over 220 pounds: Swedish freshman Will Magarity. The roster is so weirdly laid out that 6'8" Alex Dragicevich (the ND transfer) is listed as a guard and 6'5", 203 lb. Garland Owens is a forward.
This might help explain BC's defensive struggles; they've been just awful on that end of the court. They can't get turnovers, they're lousy defensive rebounders, and teams have shot .407 from three against them. Magarity is 6'11" and has the worst defensive rebounding rate on the whole team; front-line forwards Ryan Anderson and Eddie Odio (whose name is a delight to say out loud) are simply undersized relative to the competition and struggle to rebound. They're solid players, but they're badly outgunned in the post. The end result is that BC only has one game in which they've allowed less than a point per possession - Sacred Heart, the second-worst team on their schedule and a game they won in overtime.
The abysmal defense is kind of a shame, because BC can score. A triumvirate of players leads the way on offense, particularly sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan. Hanlan beat out a ton of ridiculously highly-rated talent (think Marcus Paige, T.J. Warren, Rasheed Sulaimon) to almost unanimously win Rookie of the Year honors, and was the only unanimous selection to the all-freshman team. He's currently averaging 19.2 ppg. Ryan Anderson isn't far behind with 18, and point guard Joe Rahon rounds out the scorers with 12.
It kind of drops off a cliff after that, though. Getting Jackson back into the swing will help quite a bit. Dragicevich is mostly a three-point shooter, though, and he hasn't hit many; Patrick Heckmann is just as cold. Odio, Owens, and Magarity are not scorers; they're not bad, but they're not assertive and they don't rebound, meaning all the frontcourt offense is left to Anderson.
Overall this is one of the strangest teams you'll see. They shoot threes pretty poorly overall but are one of only four teams in the country with a free-throw shooting percentage over 80. And yet everyone from Hanlan to Magarity tries their hand from long range. They're 24th in the country in KenPom's effective height measurement but they rebound like crap. Nobody has an offensive efficiency below 100 - a really rare thing to see - but only three guys score consistently. They have that 6'8" guard and 6'5" forward. It's really hard to peg a lot of these guys into a particular role. Hanlan is a star, no doubt about it, and Anderson is a really tough defend as well. If these guys can figure out some roles, maybe settle on a starting lineup, and for godsakes play some defense, they could be tough. There's probably no hope of an NCAA bid, but pulling things together could mean making some noise in the ACC to the tune of a .500ish record (probably below, but still, close) and maybe an NIT bid. Getting Clifford on the court would be a world of help, to keep Anderson and Odio from constantly being overmatched against opposing bigs. If they don't figure things out, they'll take a huge step backwards, potentially all the way to the ACC's basement. Because if Florida Atlantic is tearing up their defense to the tune of 1.2+ points per possession, what will the ACC do to it?