It’s quite rare to lose to a team, and then a little more than a month later to be favored by twelve points. In the first meeting between these two teams, the Eagles won 60-53 despite missing star players Nik Popovic and Derryck Thornton. Since then though, the BC has gone 4-7 and fallen to 13-13 overall and 7-8 in conference play.
In that contest on January seventh, poor shooting plagued the Wahoos as they shot a measly 3-16 from three-point range and 17-52 (32.7%) from the field. They’ll hope that the recent hot shooting streak holds against the Eagles.
Leading Boston College this season are Thornton, a 6’3” point guard who leads the team in scoring and distributing, averaging 13.1 points per contest to go with 3.6 APG, Popovic, a 6’11” center who averages 10.5 PPG, and Jay Heath, a 6’3” shooting guard who scores at a 12.6 PPG clip. Realistically, Heath is the only legitimate deep threat for the Eagles, as at 37.8% from deep on 4.9 attempts per game, he’s the only member of the team to shoot better than 32%. Thornton does love to get his shots up, heaving 3.4 deep ones each game, but only to the tune of 23.9%.
As a team, the Eagles boast a 98.3 offensive rating, good for 236th nationwide. Frankly, they don’t do anything all that effectively on the offensive side of the ball. Like the Cavs, they struggle from deep at only 30% from three. They shoot 46.3% from the field as a whole (313th), and turn the ball over at a 19.6% rate (227th). The team also don’t rebound many of their misses, only 25% (276th).
Defensively though, the Eagles pride themselves on causing turnovers as they turn their opponents over on 21.7% of possessions. The majority of that come off of steals, as Boston College has the 27th highest steal rate in the country at 11.6%. In fact, that proficiency has resulted in the 86th most efficient defense in the nation, paling in comparison to the Virginia defense, but still notable. Last time, the ‘Hoos only turned the ball over ten times versus the Eagles, so, as always, that’ll be something to watch.
Virginia will win if:
They hit a sufficient number of shots from deep – seven seems to be the magic number for this team – and then keep feeding Mamadi Diakite. He was ACC Player of the Week for a reason, and there’s no point in decreasing his number of touches now. They’ll also need to control Popovic on the other end, as we’ll likely see Jay Huff start on the opposing big man with the potential for the post trap to play a role.
Boston College will win if:
They can get Popovic involved from the get-go. In January, the Eagles were able to get Diakite and Huff into early foul trouble (Huff fouled out, Diakite calmed things down a tad and finished with three fouls) and if they are able to do that again, things could get out of hand. Defensively, they’ll hope to press out on Woldetensae and then concentrate on helping against Diakite in the post.
Score Prediction: Virginia 63 – Boston College 54
With the addition of Popovic and Thornton now, the Virginia defense will have to contend with more skill than it did last time these teams played. That said, the Wahoos have developed as well since early January and, considering this game will be played in the friendly confines of John Paul Jones Arena, I see the Cavs coming out on top.