Men's Basketball

Previewing BC Basketball 2016-17: What to Expect Against Wake Forest

Five more minutes and the Eagles could have walked away with a win. Five more minutes and Boston College men’s basketball would have ended its 700-day ACC losing streak on the road. Those five minutes will forever live in the world of the hypothetical as Virginia Tech was able to hold off a second-half comeback on the part of BC just long enough for the clock to strike zero and the buzzer to sound.

This season has been composed of almost-moment after almost-moment. While these moments give the Eagles a slight boost of confidence, with time they begin to wear. Once “almost” games turn from confidence boosters to episodes of bitterness, it is clear that the season is in trouble. Just take a look at last year’s team.

Against Wake Forest today, BC has a chance to reverse the tide of almosts into actual wins, and not could-have, should-have-been moments.

One major key for the Eagles during Tuesday’s game will be their ability to minimize fouls and maximize their own free-throw opportunities. During their most recent contest against Virginia Tech, they shot just 58 percent from the line in the first half, but came out in the second half to go 6-for-7. It is no coincidence that BC’s play drastically improved alongside their free-throw percentage. This link between free-throw shooting and general play has existed all season and thus the Eagles must focus on maximizing opportunities at the line.

Over the course of this season, the Eagles have managed to score 73.3 points on average whereas their opponents average 75 points. This is not a recipe for success. It would be easy to assume, given this -1.7 average point margin, that the Eagles lack in all three shooting categories, but this is simply not the case. BC holds the advantage over its opponents in terms of 3-point shots—where the Eagles recorded nearly two more 3-pointers per game—and field goals in general. The positive point margin is completely ruled out by BC’s inefficient nature regarding free throws. Not only have the Eagles taken 83 less free throws than their opponents so far this season, but they also make seven percent less shots. Essentially, the Eagles are winning the game on the open court, but their inabilities behind the line diminish any positive progress on the part of BC.

To further ensure that the matchup on Tuesday goes down in the record books as a ‘W’, the Eagles will need to keep the game close from the start. While come-from-behind wins are exciting for fans, they have not proven to be a reality for the Eagles, who have not yet won a game when down by more than four at the half.

The Eagles should benefit from home court advantage on Tuesday and for the next three games. BC has played significantly better at home than on the road as clearly seen in its 8-5 record at home compared to 0-5 on the road. One prime example is BC’s dominant play in its home win against Syracuse while the Eagles fell quite easily later in the season when they played at the home of the Orange.

To keep the game close, BC will be relying on Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson as the team has all season. To give themselves a better shot, BC should look for the graduate transfer Jordan Chatman to make his presence known alongside the dynamic duo. Chatman is coming off of a 30-point game against Virginia Tech and should continue to build off of this momentum. That being said, BC has struggled to feature multiple players with two usually dominating the game while the others on the court play strictly supporting roles. If the Eagles were able to let Bowman, Robinson, and Chatman, a triple-threat would be born that could give BC the edge that they have been looking for all season.

Meanwhile, Wake Forest will rely upon sophomore John Collins, who leads the team with 17.1 points per game. Another player to watch is guard Bryan Crawford, who is coming off of a 26-point effort against Duke. Throughout the season, Crawford has shown streaks of brilliance, often exploding and putting up unexpected 20-plus points. As long as BC can keep the consistent Collins under control and limit the unpredictable explosiveness of Crawford, the Eagles should be in good shape.

Coming off of two tough road losses, the Eagles need a confidence boost, not in the form of an almost-win, but in the form of an absolute win. This is an ambitious but achievable goal as long as the Eagles work to minimize penalties, maximize free-throw opportunities, and work to feature as many players as possible.

Featured Image by Keith Carroll / Heights Staff

January 31, 2017