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UNC Basketball: Boston College Game Preview

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The Eagles come to Chapel Hill for their only visit of the season.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After a couple of tough road losses, the North Carolina Tar Heels make a quick stop back in Chapel Hill to take on the Boston College Eagles. Carolina looks to even its conference record at 2-2, which is where BC already sits. The Eagles escape a frozen Chestnut Hill having a defeat of top-ranked Duke already on their resume.

What can we expect tomorrow night?

Boston College

The Eagles have been a doormat in the conference for a long time, but even with that in mind they’ve given Carolina trouble. There’s only been one blowout since 2014, a 37 point whipping in 2016, which was the last time BC visited Chapel Hill. BC followed up that effort two weeks later losing only by 3, and only lost by 8 last year in Chestnut Hill in a game that was a lot closer and had BC lead a vast majority of the game.

BC has two players that win the annual “grew up in North Carolina and dreamed of playing for the Tar Heels” award: Jerome Robinson, a junior out of Broughton in Raleigh, and Ky Bowman, a sophomore out of Havelock. Those two also happen to be the leading point producing leaders for the team. In their upset over Duke, Bowman ripped a 30/10 double-double, and Robinson kicked in 24 points in an astounding 38 minutes played.

Up until that point, there was no real reason to think BC was going to be able to pull off such a win, as they had already lost to Nebraska, Providence, and Texas Tech. To their credit, they won their next three after the upset, narrowly lost to UVa by one in Charlottesville, lost by four to Clemson at home, and come into Chapel Hill after a win over Wake Forest in Chestnut Hill.

No one on the BC roster is over 6’ 11’’, which is a change from Carolina’s last couple of opponents. The three guys that are over 6’ 10” are a redshirt sophomore, a sophomore, and a freshman. You’d think that would mean rebounding would be an issue, and yet BC is 42nd in the country at defensive rebounds per game, and 94th in offensive rebounding. Their problem in this game, though is they are facing a team that is better in both categories, as Carolina is 19th in offensive rebounds and 6th in defensive boards.

As it is for a lot of undersized teams, the three ball has been an equalizer for the Eagles. Robinson is their main three point threat, as he shoots slightly better from three (.468) than overall (.462). Bowman has the most attempts and shoots them at a paltry .315 clip, and junior Jordan Chatman is their other big threat, shooting the same number as Robinson and at a .430 clip. Ultimately, BC gets about 37 percent of their field goal attempts behind the arc.

BC has been good about turning the ball over at least 10 times for a majority of their games, and their assist to turnover ratio is only at 1.03. They’ve had five games so far where their turnovers outpaced the assists, and they are 1-4 in those games where that happens, the lone win being LaSalle. Force the Eagles to play hero ball and turn it over means you have a great chance of winning.

The intangibles here are the two North Carolinians. Neither Bowman nor Robinson have played a game in Chapel Hill, and you’d have to think they will want to take advantage of their shot. The combination of the Wofford win, their close loss last year, and their upset against Duke this year will probably have them feeling pretty fearless. In short: you can’t take this team lightly at all.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels come back to Chapel Hill licking their wounds losing two in a row in the ACC for the first time since 2016. Coincidentally, those losses were the games in between the two BC games. The Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson led Heels gritted out a win in Chestnut Hill even after Roy Williams fell to a really bad vertigo attack, leading assistant Steve Robinson to coach the team the majority of the second half.

On paper, this game should provide the first favorable matchup the Heels have had in conference. BC is not that experienced in the interior, and while Bowman and Robinson are real threats, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson will likely draw them as assignments, putting pressure on the rest of the team. The smallish Eagles will also likely be able to provide more room for Luke Maye to roam, so look to him to have a bounce back game.

Carolina enters a stretch of their schedule that should allow them to string together some wins and get back into a rhythm, as they don’t have another two game road trip until late February. The team has struggled with the subtraction of Seventh Woods and the addition of Cam Johnson, Luke Maye has seemingly become human, and the Tar Heel bigs are starting to struggle under the weight of conference play. Look for them to use this game as one to get right, as BC is unlikely to catch Carolina off guard like they did Duke.

What to Expect

If you look at the recent past of games against BC, one would think this will be a close one, and yet all those games were in Chestnut Hill. The last time BC won in Chapel Hill was 2009, which was a pretty good year for Carolina. While it’s completely possible that Bowman and Robinson will go off for a lot in this game, the numbers favor Carolina in the big areas.

There is a lot of bounce back potential in this game-BC may not be able to successfully double Maye as FSU and UVa were able to, and even despite their struggles Carolina has been thoroughly out rebounding their opponents. BC is one of the few teams Carolina has a size advantage over, which usually bodes well for the Heels. Even using their usual starting lineup, BC will have a tough time guarding all five guys effectively, and once the small lineup comes in, BC simply doesn’t have enough to guard every weapon Carolina puts on the floor.

There’s absolutely a chance that BC’s leaders keep this game close, and there’s just as much a chance that they force themselves into the sort of bad shots that fell against Duke, but wouldn’t fall in Chapel Hill. Add in this being the first game back for students, Carolina coming off two losses, and the odds favor a solid win here.

Final Score: UNC 88-BC 70