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StLouHoo's Preview:

Hoos on the Road

Boston College Eagles

Virginia hits the road for its first ACC date of the year, fresh off a thumping of ranked FSU. Boston College is still looking for a confidence-building win; could UVA be it?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Wednesday, January 9th, 9:00 pm ET
Location:Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA
TV:ESPN2/U

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:Virginia -12.5, O/U 129.5, equates to a ~71-59 UVA win
TAPE:Ranks BC #93, Predicts a 67-56 UVA win, 84% confidence
KenPom:Ranks BC #104, Predicts a 69-58 UVA win, 84% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#0 Ky Bowman, 6'1" 188, JR
38.5 mpg, 20.4 ppg, 3.6 apg, .333 3P%
SG#5 Wynston Tabbs, 6'2" 193, FR
31.2 mpg, 14.6 ppg, 3.0 apg, .341 3P%
SF#25 Jordan Chatman, 6'5" 210, SR
35.9 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, .400 FG%
PF#41 Steffon Mitchell, 6'8" 220, SO
28.7 mpg, 5.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg, .438 FG%
C#21 Nik Popovic, 6'11" 253, JR
28.5 mpg, 13.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .577 FG%
Key Reserves
PG#4 Chris Herren Jr., 6'3" 174, FR
17.2 mpg, 5.4 ppg, 0.6 apg, .385 3P%
G#3 Jared Hamilton, 6'4" 203, JR
20.3 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 0.0 apg, .200 3P%
F#1 Jairus Hamilton, 6'8" 234, FR
22.2 mpg, 6.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, .449 FG%
C#12 Johncarlos Reyes, 6'10" 214, JR
7.3 mpg, 2.3 ppg, 0.8 rpg, .750 FG%

 

The ABC's of Boston College:

A) The Freshmen are X-Factors. The Eagles are leaning hard on a trio of true freshmen to plug alongside the veteran presence of Bowman, Chatman, Mitchell, and Popovic. Only one of these three arrived with much fanfare, 4-star combo forward Jairus Hamilton, who earned 4 starts in December and is slowly getting up to speed with the college game, chipping in a solid 6.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in 22 minutes a night. The surprises, however, have been in the guard duo of Wynston Tabbs (247sports.com had him as the 287th ranked recruit last year) and Chris Herron, Jr (who wasn't even a rated recruit coming out of high school... and yes, son of that Chris Herron, ). These two, who no one predicted would crack the rotation this year, are coming on strong. They rank 2nd and 7th, respectively, in minutes played, each having earned their share of starts, each having breakout games (Tabbs going for 28 points vs Sacred Heart, Herron going for 22 vs Fairfield). Jim Christian has found some gems in this group, and he'll build the next generation of his program around them.

B) They're terrible from deep. Overall their offense isn't that bad. They make a fair percentage of their 2P shots, they take care of the ball, they draw whistles. They're not great on the O-glass but not terrible either. But there's one statistical category that is an anchor weighing down their offense, and that's their 3-point shooting. As a team they make only 30.6% from deep, which ranks 293rd in the country, and is second-worst in the ACC by a mere 0.1% to GT. They aren't getting it from their guards (Bowman shoots 33%, Tabbs 34%), nor from their forwards (Jairus Hamilton hits 31%, Chatman 28%), and their "stretch" bigs are a combined 5-30. The lone bright spot is Herren, hitting a solid 38.5%, but if he can't get hot, BC is in trouble.

C) They've finally got a respectable post rotation. BC hasn't had a reliable post threat since Ryan Anderson (the G-League version) defected for Arizona in 2014. This year, they're pleasantly watching junior center Nik Popovic break out. At 6-11 and 243 lbs, he's got the size to anchor any ACC team, but now he's got the production to go with it, posting 13.5 ppg on 58% shooting, drawing fouls, grabbing 7.4 rebounds a game, and over a block a night. Alongside him is starting 4 / backup 5 Steffon Mitchell, who doesn't do much scoring but (like many of the great 4's we've had in recent years like Zay, Darion, and Akil) serves as a glue guy, leading the team in rebounds (8.5 a game), grabbing 1.5 steals a night, and chipping in a couple assists a game. They're not necessarily among the ACC's top front courts, but they're solid, and the best BC has fielded in a number of years. Mitchell has been nicked up lately, but if healthy, this duo will make Jack and Mamadi work for a full 40 minutes.

 

Their Season To Date

Boston College is 9-4 on the year, 0-1 in the ACC. In addition to a respectable loss to Providence, they took bad non-conference losses at home to IUPUI in November and to Hartford on New Years Eve. Their best wins are over Minnesota at home and over last year's Cinderella, Loyola-Chicago (neutral). Most recently they lost by 11 at Virginia Tech.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Don't put them on the FT line. BC's offense is average in a lot of ways, but there's one thing the statistics say they do very well, and that's draw FTs. In fact, only 7 teams out of all 353 in D-1 draw FTAs at a higher rate than BC. Since they can't reliably hit the 3, they want to attack the rim and pray the refs bail them out. Against VT, Jordan Chatman countered his 0/6 3P stat line with 10/13 FTs. Against Hartford before that Bowman got 14 freebies. In fact, 5 different Eagles have shot double-digit FTAs in a game so far this year (Bowman x2, Chatman x2, Popovic, Mitchell x3, and Tabbs). Virginia's defense is good at not giving up FTAs (80th nationally), but not as elite as in some years past (we were 27th last year, and 22nd in 2015), so this has to continue to be a focus area both with BC and in weeks to come. If BC hopes to stay in this one, they're counting on whistles to be a part of it.

2) Disrupt their PGs. Bowman and Tabbs, BC rises and falls on the ability of these two PGs to carry the team. These two are 1-2 in scoring and 1-2 in assists. Bowman, at 6'1" is also BC's second leading rebounder (7.8 a game) and shot blocker (0.8 a game). Tabbs is of course a question mark given his leg injury, and they sorely missed him in their bid to upset VT, as well as in the second half of their loss to Hartford. If our backcourt trio of Jerome, Guy, and Clark can stymie these two (neither are particularly deadly 3-point shooters, meaning the key is to keep them from getting into the lane to score or draw whistles), then BC won't have enough from the rest of their roster to do much damage against Virginia.

3) Methodical offense for assisted open shots. BC's young defense doesn't create turnovers (294th) or get steals (222nd), instead just trying to play packed-in assignment man defense (and some occasional zone), with an emphasis on position for close-outs on shooters and defensive rebounding (sound familiar?). But unlike UVA, they really struggle in rotations, and their defense allows most of the scoring to come off ball movement, ranking 327th nationally in percentage of assisted field goals allowed. The teams that effectively move the ball against them usually find themselves with good open shots. Virginia is seeing good ball movement lately from everyone, not just its PGs, with forwards like Salt and Key finding open teammates with the extra pass. Virginia ranks 40th nationally in offensive assist rate, and needs to continue that unselfish work in this game.

 

 

Predictions:

Last year, BC, over the semester break, welcomed Duke to Chestnut Hill and upset the Top 10 Blue Devils, then took UVA to the wire. That's not about to happen this year. Jerome Robinson meant that much to them, and this year's team is back to being kinda bad.

Virginia should have little problem taking care of business against a struggling Eagles team. This is a good matchup for both Jay Huff (who can match up with Popovic, Mitchell, and Reyes) and for Kihei Clark (who can match up with Bowman, Tabbs, and Herren), so Virginia should be able to give solid minutes to all 8 players in the core rotation and wear the Eagles down over 40 minutes.

Hoos Win 68-58