Men's Basketball

Go Figure: Just How Bad is BC’s Perimeter Defense?

Jerome Robinson, Ky Bowman, and Jordan Chatman have all recorded 60-plus 3-pointers this season and, as a whole, Boston College men’s basketball is the 86th-best perimeter shooting team in the nation, per Clearly at their best in conference play, the Eagles have logged a total of 134 triples over the course of their 14-game ACC slate, averaging 9.6 per contest—the most in the league. Thanks to its outside game, BC can close a gap in a matter of minutes, and it has five double-digit, comeback wins to prove it.

That said, on the other end of the court, head coach Jim Christian’s team is as inept as any beyond the arc. Although the Eagles have had their moments of brilliance—limiting then-No. 1 Duke to 8-of-30 from downtown and holding Florida State to a season-worst 19.2 percent 3-point shooting earlier this season—their perimeter defense, or lack thereof, has frequently allowed opponents to break games open in the early going and cut into BC’s fabled second-half runs.

The Eagles have conceded 10 or more triples in 11 games this season—what’s even more staggering is that they’ve given up that many in four-straight and five of their last six matchups. So, just how poorly has BC guarded the 3-point line?

bc men's basketball

Teams are shooting a cool 35.7 percent from long range against the Eagles, sliding BC back 17 spots in the national rankings from a year ago, all the way to the 209th spot and 10th in the ACC in 3-point defense. Time and time again, Christian has stressed the importance of his guys being able to figure out who the opposing ball handlers and shooters are on a weekly basis—that way, the Eagles know who to force outside and, conversely, who to pull off the line. Still, opponents have been giving BC fits since November.

In the Eagles’ season opener, Maine stormed out of the gates, drilling a trio of 3-pointers in the span of a bit more than four minutes, en route to a 12-6 lead. The Black Bears eventually lost their touch, but managed to drain eight more triples, finishing with 11 on the night. Then, just a couple weeks later, Colgate eclipsed that mark, racking up 15 shots from 3-point land, including eight in the first half alone. Living by the long ball, the Raiders let 42 attempts fly from beyond the arc and nearly pulled off the upset in Conte Forum.

Teams like Maine and Colgate haven’t been BC’s only opponents to ride and die by the 3-pointer—in fact, when up against the Eagles, units are scoring 39.6 percent of their points (28th-most in the nation) off outside shots. The Eagles’ Achilles’ heel grew increasingly apparent soon after they kicked off ACC play.

Perhaps due to the fact that their starters play more minutes than just about everyone else in college basketball, BC regularly fails to close out on the perimeter. There’s also something to be said about Robinson and Bowman occasionally drifting inside to help out Steffon Mitchell or Nik Popovic down low. Whatever the case, the Eagles are often caught flailing toward the 3-point line in an attempt to desperately disrupt wide-open shots, on a game-to-game basis. As a result, treys come in bunches, best exemplified by their home contest against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons, who average eight 3-pointers a game, netted four in the final 61 seconds of regulation, turning what was bound to be double-digit blowout into a six-point loss.

It’s becoming somewhat of a norm for opponents to have one of their best 3-point shooting performances of the season against BC. Prior to the Eagles’ Jan. 24 matchup with Syracuse, the Orange were the worst field goal and 3-point shooting team in the ACC. But for 40 minutes, BC made head coach Jim Boeheim’s group look like one of the better sharpshooting teams in the conference, as Syracuse knocked down seven of its 16 attempts from beyond the arc. Not too long after that, Notre Dame poured on a season-best 16 triples to run the Eagles out of South Bend. To make matters worse for BC, Matt Farrell and the Fighting Irish put on another 3-point shooting contest at Conte Forum this past weekend, totaling 14 more outside shots.

Against conference opponents, BC drops to 12th in the ACC in 3-point defense, allowing teams to convert 38.6 percent of their shots from deep. To put that statistic in perspective, if the Eagles were to play that loose on the outside all year, they would rank 323rd in the country in perimeter D.

bc men's basketball

BC has had more trouble than ever when playing away from Chestnut Hill—unsurprisingly, considering the Eagles are a week removed from their first conference road victory in over two and a half years. In enemy territory, BC is giving up 42 percent of its ACC opponents’ 3-point shots, compared to just 36.3 percent of those at home. The Eagles need to win two of their last three road games in order to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Whether that happens will likely depend on how well they defend the perimeter.

Featured Image by Sam Zhai / Heights Staff

Graphics by Nicole Chan / Heights Editor

February 20, 2018