How bad is Boston College, UNC's first ACC opponent? Let's put it this way. For the last three seasons, the Eagles' greatest embarrassment has been a three-game losing streak to Harvard. But Harvard keeps improving, meaning BC needs to find new ways to express their awfulness. Two years ago, it was losing at home to Maine. Last year they lost to Yale. But this season, with Harvard being considered good by basketball fans, the Eagles have had to plumb new depths, embarking on a state tour of getting their ass kicked.
Said tour kicked off with back-to-back losses to Holy Cross (6-8) and Massachusetts (12-3), both by 20+ points. They were beaten by their crosstown rival, Boston University (4-11), by fourteen, and most recently Rhode Island (3-12). Both of those games, as well as UMass, were at home. And Harvard? They beat BC by 21 after spotting the Eagles a 13-point first half lead.
Why is Boston College so bad? In part, because they're very, very young. The team has nine freshmen, as well as two transfers; all five starters from last year's NIT squad. And that team's defense was pretty bad to start with; this year's is much, much worse.
The team's most prolific shooter is Matt Humphrey, a transfer from Oregon at small forward. He doesn't make very many of them, but he's the guy trying to make the most of the offense. He lost his starting job right before the Rhode Island game, so I'm not even sure how much we'll see of him. The guy who replaced him, small forward Patrick Heckmann, is a freshman from Germany, and may be the best thing about this team. He's got a pretty good assist rate for someone at his position, and he shoots better than Humphrey.
Where Boston will really be crushed is inside. Despite bringing in three tall, athletic interior players – Ryan Anderson, Dennis Clifford, and KC Caudill – the team gets killed on the boards, posting one of the worst offensive rebounding percentages in the country. BC rarely gets constant offense from the frontcourt, instead settling for a large number of ill-advised threes. Tyler Zeller and John Henson will have a field day.
Steve Donahue pretty much gave away his game plan for the Heels in last season's two meetings. In the first, the Eagles tried to run with Carolina, and were absolutely destroyed; in the second they slowed the pace to a crawl, stuck to a zone defense, and took advantage of UNC's poor shooting to almost get an upset. Instead, they had to settle for the accomplishment of holding the Heels to the lowest scoring output of the Roy Williams era. So expect BC to try to replicate that with a lot of zone and a snail's pace.
Will that be successful? Not likely. There's a reason BC fans are speculating about which ACC records could fall today. Although they don't mention the assist mark – 20, held by Chris Corchiani – which seems pretty ripe to fall, or the team scoring records, which to be honest, may be unattainable. Ken Pomeroy currently rates BC below UNC victims Elon, Appalachian State, and Mississippi Valley State; this game should be an utter blowout.
Does Boston College have a chance on turning this thing around in the next year or two? That's the bigger question, and something I'll be most eager to look for in how BC plays. Donahue made quite a name for himself at Cornell, but a lot of that was for his defense, which has yet to manifest itself in Boston. With starting lineups in flux, he's still looking for a combination that works. There may be one or two among this crop of freshman, but it'll be awhile before that comes to the surface.