Boston College men’s basketball faces its stiffest test of the season on Saturday afternoon, as it travels to Chapel Hill to take on No. 2 North Carolina. The Eagles (7-13, 0-7 Atlantic Coast) are still searching for their first conference victory, while North Carolina (18-2, 7-0) is looking to stay undefeated in ACC play.
BC is coming off a tough 72-62 home loss to Florida State, as it continues to suffer through a down year. With a roster that includes 10 freshmen, these struggles were expected, especially in an ultra-competitive ACC. Senior Eli Carter has done most of the heavy lifting (17.2 points per game) and will have to do more now that freshman guard Jerome Robinson (11.6 ppg) is sidelined with a broken wrist.
North Carolina, on the other hand, escaped with a 75-70 win at Virginia Tech to bring its win streak to 11 games. UNC, the preseason No. 1 in most national polls, has been one of the top teams in the country all season long. Led by do-it-all guard Marcus Paige and a dominant frontcourt of senior Brice Johnson and junior Kennedy Meeks, the Tar Heels find themselves as National Championship favorites heading into February.
BC will be a heavy underdog in the game, as it searches for its first win over a top-five opponent since its historic win over then 25-0 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome during the 2013-14 season.
Last Time They Played: BC and UNC met two times during the 2014-15 season, and the Tar Heels took care of the Eagles on both occasions. In the regular season matchup on Feb. 7, BC stuck around for 30 minutes behind Olivier Hanlan’s 30 points. The Tar Heels, however, were ultimately too much to overcome, and they walked out of Conte Forum with a hard-earned 79-68 victory. The second matchup between the two rivals occurred in the second round of the ACC tournament on March 11, and it was a much more one-sided game. North Carolina overcame a relatively slow start and cruised to an 81-63 win.
Three Keys to the Game:
- Avoid Being Dominated on the Glass: BC’s biggest problem all season long has been its inability to win the rebounding battle. The Eagles currently rank 327th out of 351 NCAA Division I teams in rebounding (32.2 rebounds per game). North Carolina, on the other hand, is one of the best rebounding teams in the country. The Tar Heels are tied for 16th in rebounding (41.6) and 19th in offensive rebounding (14.1). Because of North Carolina’s size, BC has virtually no shot of winning the battle of the boards. But, it has to challenge for each and every loose ball in order to have a shot.
- Give North Carolina the 3-Point Line: On multiple occasions this season, BC has been beaten by opponents’ hot hands from beyond the arc. Notre Dame went 11-of-17 from downtown against the Eagles, while Pittsburgh connected on 10-of 19 from beyond the arc in its victory over BC. But the Eagles don’t have to worry about the 3-point shooting of North Carolina, as the Tar Heels are making just 30.6 percent of their 3-pointers this season (315th in the country). BC’s defensive strategy should be to play off of North Carolina’s perimeter players. This will prevent them from driving to the lane and should lead to Marcus Paige and Co. settling for long jumpers.
- Connect from the Charity Stripe: If BC is going to stick around in this game, it needs to improve upon its performance at the free throw line. BC has been far from money from the charity stripe all season long, as it ranks 322nd in the country in free throw percentage. In the 10-point loss to Florida State last week, the Eagles went just 2-of-9 from the line. BC needs to get points any way it can against the Tar Heels, who currently rank seventh in the country in scoring with 85.7 points per game. The Eagles need to shoot well above their season average of 63.5 percent from the line if they have any chance of walking out of Chapel Hill with a shocking victory.
Featured Image by Nick Lisi / AP Photo