Men's Basketball

Previewing BC Basketball: What to Expect Against Notre Dame

Just over two weeks removed from its valiant effort against North Carolina, things have become much less positive for Boston College men’s basketball. The Eagles now find themselves amidst a nine game losing streak, with their last win coming just over one month ago. To make matters worse, BC now finds itself at the bottom of the ACC following last week for the first time this whole season.  

This Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, will showcase the latest edition of the Holy War as No. 25 Notre Dame (19-7, 8-5 Atlantic Coast) visits Conte Forum. With five games remaining in the regular season, the Eagles (9-17, 2-11) will have two opportunities to take down the Fighting Irish.

The Eagles have hit a rut offensively lately as they have scored just 64 points per game in their last three contests. The biggest difference in these games has been Jordan Chatman’s lack of an ability to score as he has averaged just six points per game. The disappearing of their third scoring option has resulted in the Eagles falling to Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, two very beatable teams. Head coach Jim Christian has inserted forward Ervins Meznieks into the Eagles rotation in an attempt to stimulate the offense as well as swapping Chatman for A.J. Turner in the starting rotation. Meznieks has proved himself to be a viable player that will more than likely be a part of the rotation in the future.

Last Time They Played:

The Eagles played the Irish twice last year, falling each time with an average margin of defeat of 27.5 points. The most recent time these teams met up saw Notre Dame win 76-49 in an extremely weak effort by BC. The Eagles shot 28.6 percent from the floor as Eli Carter was the only player on the team in double figures with 16 points. Bonzie Colson and Steve Vasturia led the way for the Irish with 16 points each. Notre Dame held a 34-29 advantage at the half, before going on a 16-2 run to start the second half. The clear difference in the box score was the fact that Notre Dame got to the foul line 27 times while the Eagles shot just 14 free throws.

Scouting Notre Dame:

After consecutive Elite Eight runs, Notre Dame was supposed to have a down year this season. The Fighting Irish lost Demetrius Jackson early to the NBA draft as well as starting center Zach Auguste, who was a key contributor. The Irish have hardly regressed from last year, however, as point guard Matt Farrell has emerged as a star and Bonzie Colson has taken on the role of the go to guy. Head coach Mike Brey has developed a formula for success at the helm of Notre Dame as one of the longest tenured coaches in the country. The Irish always shoot the ball well from the 3-point line, and have one of the best assist to turnovers ratios in the country.

As a team, ND shoots 39.7 percent from behind the arc, which is good for 19th-best in the nation. The Irish rely on Steve Vasturia, V.J. Beachem, and Farrell from 3-point land to spearhead their scoring attack. Vasturia and Beachem are lengthy scoring guards at 6 foot 6 and 6 foot 8 respectively. They provide the ability to create shots for themselves as they rise up above defenders out stretched arms. Farrell is a different animal at six foot one with tight handles, and tremendous range from beyond the arc. Notably, Notre Dame also has the best team free throw percentage in the country at 81.2 percent.

Brey is known for relying on his guards to take good care of the ball. The Irish lost an elite point guard to the draft in Jackson last year meaning that former three star recruit, Farrell, would be thrown into the fire having played minimally in his first two seasons. Farrell has been outstanding for the Irish this year, averaging 14.2 points per game and 5.6 assists per game. He has enabled the Irish to maintain their reputation for taking especially good care of the ball, as they have had the second-best assist to turnover ration in the country at 1.68.

In taking a deeper look at Notre Dame’s roster, the Eagles match up well with them on paper. The Irish’s largest player, Martinas Geben, is just 6-foot-10 and is primarily used for the toughness he provides on the defensive end. Colson plays the four for ND and is just 6-foot-5. What makes Colson different than most players that size, however, is his seven foot wingspan. Colson uses his length to effectively get to the basket. His driving game coupled with his smooth midrange stroke, has enabled him to lead the scoring attack inside for Notre Dame, as he averages 16.7 points per game. He is also the main shot blocker for the Irish despite being just six foot five. Furthermore, Temple Gibbs and Matt Ryan will provide good 3-point shooting for the Irish off the bench, and Rex Pflueger will be utilized to bring energy on the defensive end off the bench.

Three Keys to Victory:

1.) Perimeter Defense: Notre Dame shoots the ball extremely well from downtown. In order to slow down the Irish’s attack, the Eagles first duty will be to defend the perimeter. BC has the length to match up with Notre Dame’s shooters, but it has shown vulnerability all season long in closing out on outside shooters. The Irish have some players capable of getting to the basket, but their scorers will prefer to shoot the ball from outside. Thirty-four percent of Notre Dame’s points have come from the 3-point line this season. Relative to this statistic, 29 percent of the Eagles points have come from the 3-point line this season.

2.) Jordan Chatman: Notre Dame is a team that can put a lot of points on the board quickly. Chatman has faded over the Eagles’ last three games and is vital to their scoring attack. The Eagles have suffered this season as a result of not having a steady third scoring option. Chatman has shot 43.5 percent from 3-point range this season, and just over two weeks ago scored 33 points against Virginia Tech. The Irish will have much more to worry about on the defensive end if Chatman can get it going early. Brey will have a gameplan that is geared toward slowing down the Eagles’ primary scorers in Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson. Chatman can provide a wrench in that plan if he can create some shots for himself.

3.) Limit Turnovers: While turnovers have been a key issue for the Eagles all season long, it is especially important that they take care of the ball against the Irish. The Eagles rank 192nd in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio, and as noted, the Irish rank second. ND will not make many mistakes, meaning that BC cannot afford to turn the ball over as often as it tends to. The Irish play a clean, methodical game and that makes up for the fact that they do not have elite talent. ND does not recruit players of superior talent relative to BC. If the Eagles can take care of the ball and make some shots early, do not be surprised if this game is close.

Featured Image by Kate Mahoney / Heights Staff

February 14, 2017