We will be taking you around the conference this season with some great ACC blogs to preview the matchups. Tuesday, the Boston College Eagles come to Littlejohn and Brian Favat from SB Nation's BC Interruption has us covered on the Eagles…
Us: Before the 58-56 win over Virginia Tech Saturday, the Eagles had dropped three-straight ACC contests by double-digits. What went right against the Hokies and wrong against Duke, UNC and FSU?
Favat: I think it’s a little tough to compare road losses to Duke and Florida State and a home shellacking by the Heels and a win over Virginia Tech at home. Duke is clearly the best team in the conference, and North Carolina seems to be staking claim to the conference’s second slot. Florida State plays defense as well as anyone in the country. So I think comparing the Eagles most recent games against one another is an unfair comparison.
That said there are a couple of things that went right for the Eagles against the Hokies. BC held Virginia Tech to just 34.5 percent shooting from the floor, a season low for the Hokies. Donahue abandoned a lot of the 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone looks the Eagles’ have featured in favor of mostly man-to-man defense. Donahue also didn’t switch in and out of defensive sets as much as he has in previous games. The Eagles responded by limiting the Hokies to some tough shots. Jeff Allen (25 points, 19 boards) certainly had his way with the BC defense, but the Eagles did just enough to get the W and stop the bleeding.
Us: Tuesday night features two new coaches to the ACC this season in Brad Brownell and Steve Donahue - how different is this Boston College team from years' past and have the Eagles improved under Donahue? What are your impressions of Clemson under Brownell so far?
Favat: Very different. Like night and day different.
The difference can be seen primarily on offense, where Donahue’s three-happy offense is on almost the opposite end of the offensive philosophy spectrum as Al Skinner’s tight, Flex offense. On any given possession, you will see up to four BC players around the perimeter looking for the open three. Guys like Biko Paris, Reggie Jackson, Joe Trapani, Corey Raji, Danny Rubin, even Gabe Moton and Dallas Elmore have the green light from beyond the arc.
Under Donahue, BC really spreads the floor and either moves the ball around looking for the three, or gets a guy like Reggie Jackson or Joe Trapani to slash to the hoops. Josh Southern plays the role of facilitator, getting the ball in the post and dishing it to one of BC’s guards for an open look.
With how different BC has looked on offense, we have looked worse than last year on defense. BC’s bench is much thinner than it was even a year ago, and the Eagles’ defense is ranked as one of the worst in the country in terms of adjusted efficiency. UNC dropping 100+ on BC … in Conte Forum … is exhibit F on how bad the BC defense can be.
I haven’t gotten a close look at Coach Brownell yet this season, but from everything I’ve heard he has Clemson on the right track this year. Tigers are playing great defense, have an average offense, and are very much in the thick of things in terms of getting a first-round bye in this year’s ACC Tournament. Not bad for a team predicted to finish seventh in the ACC.
Us: Coming into TigerTown, BC has a top 50 RPI at 15-8 (5-4 ACC). How are you feeling about the Eagles' NCAA Tourney chances and how many conference wins do you think will get you in? With four road games left, how many will BC need?
Favat: It’s probably going to take a few more wins for the Eagles to come off this year’s very soft bubble. The Eagles have a tough, tough three game stretch with tonight’s game at Clemson, Maryland at home and North Carolina on the road. They follow that up with very winnable games against Miami, at Virginia, at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
If BC can win five of seven … say four straight to end the season (Miami, at Virginia, at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest) and one more of the next three, I think the Eagles are in at 20-10 with strong RPI and SOS numbers.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the Eagles can win the last four, having already beat UVa and Virginia Tech, barely losing to Miami and Wake … well, is Wake. If BC can split with Clemson and Maryland, then I think they get in.
Win four of seven and it will probably take 1-2 wins in the ACC Tournament to get in (though the bubble is really, REALLY soft this year).
Us: Boston College has four starters averaging double-digits - give Tiger fans a quick profile on leading scorer Reggie Jackson, leading rebounder Joe Trapani, forward Corey Raji and guard Biko Paris.
Favat: Reggie Jackson is in the midst of a bad, bad four game shooting slump. He’s been shooting really poorly, and is way under his season average for points. He did show signs of life in the last 11 minutes of the Virginia Tech game, and might be turning the corner, but he’s been shooting poorly from the floor after a really fast start to the season. Jackson is a threat from three, but also a good ball handler and can slash to the hoop and create off the dribble.
Where Jackson has struggled of late, Joe Trapani has found his game. Trapani is getting his points and also working the offensive and defensive glass. Trapani is a bigger player who can shoot the three but also create down low.
Biko Paris has shown a lot of progress in his game this season. When Donahue arrived at the Heights, he challenged all the players to shoot 100 threes a day and track their progress. As the story goes, Biko really took the challenge to heart and the improvement in his three-point shooting has been phenomenal.
Finally, Corey Raji, a three year starter, has been coming off the bench under Donahue until recently. Raji can shoot the three, but also creates second-chance opportunities on the boards and really scraps for points and rebounds.
Us: What are the keys to the Eagles coming out of Littlejohn with their second ACC road win?
Favat: Against Florida State, BC really let the Seminole perimeter defense disrupt their looks from range. The Eagles need to establish the half-court offense and find open looks from three. If the Eagles don’t shoot well from range, or protect the ball on offense, it will be a long, long night for BC.