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UNC vs. Boston College: Game Preview

The Heels travel up north seeking their sixth straight win

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With Notre Dame’s loss to Florida State on Wednesday, the #9 North Carolina Tar Heels are in three-way tie for first place in the ACC. After playing three games in six days, concluding with a victory against Syracuse Monday, the Heels return to action today against Boston College up in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. UNC needs to take care of business against BC today to keep pace at the top of the league, especially with the lack of road wins this year in the ACC. Carolina needs to take advantage of a slumping BC team, as the Eagles are on a two-game skid since their defeat of NC State. Tipoff is scheduled for 12:00 PM and can be seen on the ACC Network and heard on your local Tar Heel Sports Network affiliate.

North Carolina

On Monday, UNC secured their 17th win of the season and 800th of Coach Roy Williams’ career. After a Joel Berry II three pointer pushed Carolina ahead of Syracuse at 3-2, the Tar Heels never relinquished the lead. It was not the most impressive UNC performance, especially coming off a great win against Florida State, however the Tar Heels played to their strengths, took care of the basketball, and held the Orange to their lowest point total in league play.

Concerns about Carolina’s frontcourt after the Wake Forest game have been alleviated with the performances of Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks in the past two games. The two are playing some of their best basketball right now and should keep that going against Boston College. Meeks has been a beast on the glass, especially scooping up offensive rebounds. Hicks has been scoring a lot and in a variety of ways, from alley-oops to mid-range jumpers. And do not forget Luke Maye. He had career highs in rebounds and minutes played against Florida State, and was an efficient scorer against Syracuse. The likely return of Tony Bradley will put a great talent and key contributor back into UNC’s formidable frontcourt. Carolina will have the size, experience, and talent advantage against Boston College’s big men.

Justin Jackson has been putting up great offensive numbers as of late, averaging over 20 points a game the last four games. The best part of the his performance against Syracuse was not his shooting, even though he scored 19 points. He was 8-19 from the field, including just 2-8 from three. However, he had 10 rebounds and four assists, nearly doubling his season averages in those categories. Jackson ended up with strong numbers in the box score, even though the shots were not falling like they were in the previous three games. Joel Berry, Kenny Williams, Theo Pinson, Nate Britt, and Jackson will pose match up problems for Boston College. Especially with the steadiness of the leading ACC Player of the Year candidate Joel Berry, UNC’s backcourt should handle BC’s young guards.

Boston College

Coach Jim Christian has led the Eagles to an improved record this season, already outpacing the total number of wins from last year. The addition of two graduate transfers, forward Connar Tava and Mo Jeffers, have proved much needed experience and talent to this squad. Before BC’s current two-game losing streak, the Eagles were playing with a lot of fight. They opened conference play with a 15-point win against Syracuse, then lost two straight road games against Wake Forest and Duke. It is important to note that Boston College outscored the Blue Devils in the second half in Durham, but it was not enough to erase a 19-point halftime deficit. In their next game, BC was going back-and-forth with NC State until the second half. The Eagles took the lead about halfway through and never looked back. The Eagles outworked the Wolfpack to the even their conference record. Against Syracuse and Virginia in the past two games, the Eagles were plagued by long stretches of scoreless droughts and were relying on three-point and outside shots. However, as we have seen, the Tar Heels cannot look past the Eagles.

As mentioned previously, Tava and Jeffers are important contributors to Boston College and have been crucial in improving their conference and overall record this year. However, the biggest contributors this year and the reasons for BC fan optimism for the future are two of Jim Christian’s recruits in the Eagle starting lineup. Sophomore forward Jerome Robinson, a Raleigh native, is BC’s leading scorer this season averaging 19.6 points per game. Their second leading scorer is Ky Bowman, a Havelock native and freshman guard. Bowman is averaging 11.9 points per game. From mid-December to mid-January, Robinson had eight straight games of scoring at least 20 points. In that same stretch, Bowman scored in double figures in each of those games. However, in BC’s past two losses, Robinson scored nine in each and Bowman was held to just 10 points total.

There will be match up issues throughout the BC lineup. Since the offense for Boston College runs through Robinson and Bowman, look for them to carry the load for the Eagles. The addition of Theo Pinson in the lineup helps the defensive prospects for Carolina and adds another body in the case of foul trouble caused by Robinson or Bowman driving to the basket. Boston College outrebounded Virginia in their last game, but do not let that fool you. Virginia is the worst rebounding team in the ACC. Having said that, BC can snag some rebounds, but may have issues scoring in the paint.

The bottom line is that Carolina cannot sleep on Robinson. A stellar individual performance can be infectious to the whole team. That factor, combined with lackadaisical efforts on the defensive end and poor shot selection, could lead to a Georgia Tech situation. Look for Berry to lead the Tar Heels on both ends of the court and for Hicks and Meeks to continue their dominance inside.

Projected Lineups

UNC

BC

Kennedy Meeks – F – SR

Mo Jeffers – F – SR

Isaiah Hicks – F – SR

A.J. Turner – F – SO

Justin Jackson – F – JR

Connar Tava – F – SR

Kenny Williams III – G – SO

Jerome Robinson – G – SO

Joel Berry II – G – JR

Ky Bowman – G – FR

UNC will win if they

  • Convert second chance opportunities into points
  • Get out in transition and score
  • Play tough defense from the tip

BC will win if they

  • Get the UNC bigs into foul trouble
  • Force Carolina to shoot from the outside early
  • Get an All-ACC performance from Robinson