Virginia Tech strives to get their fifth conference win on Sunday as they host the Boston College Eagles (9-12/2-6). Last season, Boston College went winless in 18 ACC games but they broke that streak this season with a 15-point win over Syracuse as well as a win against North Carolina State. Jim Christian had an impossible task of trying to field a relatively competitive team compared to years past this season, but that’s what he has done. The Eagles lost by just 8 against UNC and their last contest was a one-point loss against Miami. The Hokies likely won’t be up 20 at halftime and coast to an overly comfortable victory.
The Eagles’ offense averages 73 PPG, 194th in the country. Compared to last season, Boston College has been much more effective offensively despite using a similar strategy. Eli Carter, who had a 32% Usage Rate in 2015, left the team but that heavy usage spot has been taken by sophomore Jerome Robinson. He has been a one man wrecking crew this season, averaging 19.9 points and 4.3 boards. He is a size mismatch for most SF/PF’s at 6-7 with above average quickness and plus shooting ability. Robinson shoots 45% from the field and 36.5% from downtown. This will more than likely be Chris Clarke’s defensive matchup, so it imperative that Clarke has a good game from on the defensive end first.
However, despite the improvement on offense the Eagles only have three scorers averaging over 9 PPG. Ky Bowman, a freshman 6-1 guard, is second on the team in scoring averaging 12.9 points per game. He has been lights out from three-point range, hitting on an impressive 42.1% of his long range attempts. He has also been a decent facilitator for the Eagles’ offense, posting a 20.9% Assist Percentage (leads the team).
AJ Turner is the third player that scores at least 9 PPG with 9.7. While he isn’t the most prolific scorer, he does a lot of other things really well, a huge reason he leads the team in Win Shares. Like Bowman, Turner is an excellent three-point threat (41.4%) but he also averages 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists. His presence as a shooter opens up opportunities for Robinson and Bowman to attack the basket and have success.
One reason the Hokies should have success against Boston College defensively is because the Eagles don’t play with a lot of size. We saw in Chapel Hill how much the Hokies can struggle against a team with great length across the board, but most of Boston College’s rotation does not stand over 6-7.
The Eagles’ next two leading scorers, Jordan Chatman (7.0) and Connor Tava (6.9), each stand in the 6-5/6-6 range. Virginia Tech’s lengthy guard tandem of Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs should not struggle too much when those two players decide to penetrate. The Hokies have gone to a predominantly zone defense over the last two games, but it would surprise me if Buzz Williams decides to use some man-to-man sets Sunday night.
As a team, Boston College loves to push the ball, ranking 63rd in the NCAA in Pace. Like Virginia Tech, the Eagles seek to score easy baskets in transition to make up for an offense with deficiencies. That is where Robinson and Bowman are most dangerous. The Hokies need to get five behind the ball off a miss or turnover. They cannot let Boston College hang around due to poor discipline and fundamentals, because that’s how you lose games in this conference.
Boston College also has a bad case of the turnover bug. They have turned it over on 19.1% of their possessions, which ranks 329th in the country. The Hokies have been excellent forcing turnovers on their home floor, and tonight presents an opportunity to continue that trend. Connor Tava and Bowman specifically have had a difficult time taking care of the basketball, especially during conference play.
Boston College’s defense has been broken down by nearly every team they have played, mostly due to a combination of a lack of talent and a lack of size. The Eagles give up 74.5 PPG (245th) but their KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency ranks 110th due to the fact they face more possessions due to the average team.
The Hokies have struggled shooting the ball the last three games, going 23/71 (32.3%) from three in that span. Boston College stresses defending the perimeter which is why teams only shoot 34.8% from deep since the start of conference play, which ranks 4th in the ACC. That being said, the Hokies can have a lot of success getting into the paint against this defense. Opponents are shooting over 52% inside the arc on the Eagles during conference play. They do not possess the rim protection of UNC or Georgia Tech, which is why teams have had success against them. Look for Chris Clarke to get going early with some drives to the basket which should open up the three ball for Hill and Bibbs.
Virginia Tech is at home and clearly the better team, despite Boston College’s improvement. The Hokies’ lack of size won’t hurt them as much facing a similarly small Eagles team, and Virginia Tech’s ability to get to the rim should be what wins them this game. Hopefully this opens up the perimeter for Bibbs and Hill to get back into a shooting rhythm and get out of their slump.