Tonight, Virginia Tech fans get their chance to say goodbye to seniors Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen, Terrell Bell and Paul Debnam in what will hopefully be their final games at Cassell Coliseum. Beat fellow bubble team Boston College tonight, and the Hokies will assuredly have their names called on Selection Sunday and avoid another top seed in the NIT.
GC: In the teams' first meeting, the Eagles forced a lot of tough shots for Erick Green and Malcolm Delaney, who were a combined 6-25 from the floor. Do you think BC's D can repeat that performance?
BCI: Probably not. Especially not on the road in a hostile environment (though I think any home court advantage at the Cassell will be somewhat mitigated by a little Duke hangover and the late, 9 PM start). I would think that Green and Delaney will have better games from the floor tonight. The difference will be if the Eagles can get a solid performance from Reggie Jackson, who, in our first meeting, was held scoreless for nearly three-quarters of the game. Long winded response. Short answer -- no, the Eagles won't be able to match that performance.
GC: Reggie Jackson had a very poor game in the first meeting. Can the Eagles win in Blacksburg without a big game from him?
BCI: Again, probably not. Jackson helped spark a 26-4 run over halves against the Cavaliers on Saturday, and claims BC is looking at each game as a single-elimination playoff game (which is it, more or less). The Eagles' NCAA Tournament hopes are largely on the back of both Reggie Jackson and Joe Trapani, and if one or both have an off shooting night, it will be a long night for the Eagles.
GC: What do the Eagles have to do to make the Tournament?
BCI: Tonight is a "win or go NIT" sort of night. BC's 17-11 (7-7 ACC) record isn't much to look at, but the Eagles' resume is bolstered by a strong SOS (second in conference only to UNC) and RPI (third best behind Carolina and Duke). A regular season sweep of equally bubbalicious Maryland and Virginia Tech looks really good when comparing those teams, especially when you consider Tech is coming off such a big win in conference.
Lose tonight, and BC will have to go deep into the ACC Tournament -- like Semifinal or Championship Game deep -- to get in.
After the Virginia Tech game comes Wake Forest on Sunday, and if BC can't win that game, then they really have no business even being on the bubble.
I think it will take at least three straight wins -- tonight, Wake on Sunday, first round ACC Tournament -- to get off the bubble and in the Tournament. Of course, there is always the looming threat of mid-majors stealing a bid in the conference tournament, so BC might have to tack on an ACC Tournament Quarterfinals win just to be sure.
GC: Are BC fans happy with the job Steve Donahue has done in his first year?
BCI: I think so, though it's far too soon to evaluate the job Donahue has done. I think the fact that he took a team with a less talented roster, against a tougher schedule and won more games than Skinner did last year is a testament to the job the Don has done this year. Everyone who watches this team comes away thinking it's a well coached program, which is always good to hear.
That said, there are still some lingering doubts, mostly on defense, we continue to come up short against Ivy League opponents, and attendance hasn't been all that great. BC loses something like 7-8 seniors next year, so expectations will be low next season. It's a process though and we'll have to give Donahue time to build his own program. But so far, I think Donahue has a favorable approval rating.
GC: Who ya got in this game?
BCI: My head tells me Virginia Tech, especially with the 9 point (!) point spread, the close game up in Chestnut Hill and the fact that this one is in Blacksburg. But my heart tells me that BC somehow finds a way to win and keeps its NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Foolish? Maybe. Let's go with Boston College 70-66.
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