Previewing BC Basketball 2016-17: What to Expect Against Miami

By this point in the 2016-17 college basketball season, it is no secret to anyone in the country that Boston College men’s basketball can compete with anyone—that is, if its young backcourt of Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson are on point. In the Eagles’ recent game against North Carolina on Saturday, the duo combined for 51 points, including seven 3-pointers from Bowman. BC kept the game close right down to the buzzer in a 90-82 loss against the No. 9 Tar Heels in front of a sold-out, exuberant crowd at Conte Forum. That same night, before a national audience, Jay Bilas declared that the Eagles “[are] no easy out anymore” as he called the Duke-Miami game on ESPN.

BC (9-11, 2-5 Atlantic Coast) will look to ride the momentum of its solid performance against one of the nation’s best teams on Wednesday as it heads south to face the University of Miami (12-6, 2-4). The Eagles have had extremely varied results in conference play this season, with arguably their two worst performances occurring in road contests. On Jan. 3, BC fell 79-66 at Wake Forest as it shot just 36 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from 3-point land. A couple of weeks later, the Eagles dropped a road game to Syracuse, 76-53, turning the ball over 20 times and shooting just 39 percent from the field. Wednesday will mark an opportunity for the Eagles to pick up their first ACC road win of the season.

Throughout conference play, BC has fallen victim to several slow starts which have proven to be too much to overcome. Keeping the game close at halftime is crucial, as the biggest halftime deficit the Eagles have overcome this season is a four-point margin against Providence College. On the road, it is especially important to get off to a hot start. While Miami’s home court, the Watsco Center, is the smallest arena in the ACC with a capacity of 7,972, it was, on average, 90 percent full last season. If BC can come out and hit its shots early on, it can take advantage of the 9 p.m. start time, which will make people more inclined to head home from the game early. Miami has had mixed results in conference play this season with its only two wins coming against NC State and Pittsburgh. The Eagles are catching Miami at a good time to put an end to their 11-game winless drought against the Hurricanes that dates back to 2010.

Last time they played: The Hurricanes visited the Heights last January as the No. 15 team in the country. Seniors Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez led the way for the Hurricanes as they handled the Eagles, 67-53. Entering this contest, BC was riding a four-game losing streak in conference play, with an average margin of defeat of 22.5 points. Despite this statistic, the Eagles kept it close in the first half as the Hurricanes led 29-28 at halftime. The second half saw the Eagles shoot a measly 25.8 percent from the field as the Hurricanes pulled away. Miami seven-footer Tonye Jekiri killed the Eagles inside, grabbing 17 rebounds and protecting the paint on defense. While BC fans had little to cheer for, they got a taste of Robinson’s ability to put up solid numbers against high-caliber teams. The freshman tallied 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting while being covered by McClellan, who currently plays for the Washington Wizards.

Miami Scouting Report: One year removed from their second Sweet 16 run in four seasons, head coach Jim Larranaga has them poised to make the tournament once again. After losing three of their five starters from last year in McClellan, Rodriguez, and Jekiri, Larranaga brought in the first top-10 recruiting class in school history. The cornerstone of that recruiting class is Bruce Brown, who hails from Wakefield, Mass., and has replaced McClellan at shooting guard. Junior guard Ja’Quan Newton has also been inserted into the starting lineup at point guard after playing the role of sixth man last year. Brown and Newton have meshed well in the backcourt with three-guard Davon Reed, who is the Hurricanes’ top returning scorer from last year.

Much like BC, Miami relies heavily on its talented guard play to set the tone. Brown, Newton, and Reed have scored 57 percent of Miami’s points this season, each player scoring consistently in double figures. Newton is the primary facilitator on offense for the Hurricanes as he leads the team with four assists per game. Newton is a driving point guard who will look to penetrate and score on layups or dish the ball back out to the perimeter. He has attempted just 27 3-pointers this season. Brown has a similar playing style as he scores mostly inside the 3-point line and collects 6.9 rebounds per game. Brown and Newton will look to kick it out to Reed at the 3-point line who shoots 40.4 percent from downtown. Reed has been the top scorer for the Hurricanes this season, averaging 15.4 points per game.

Miami lacks the presence inside that they had last year in Jekiri, a two-time All-ACC Defensive Team honoree. Forwards Kamari Murphy and Anthony Lawrence will most likely get the majority of the minutes for the Hurricanes on Wednesday at the four and five position. Murphy and Lawrence are 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8, respectively. They do not provide the same shot-blocking ability that Jekiri did last season, and are not particularly talented scoring the ball inside. Dewan Huell, a 6-foot-11 freshman and former five-star recruit, will provide size and scoring ability off the bench if Miami will look to challenge the Eagles’ small frontcourt.

Three Keys to Victory:

  1. Limit Turnovers: While Bowman had 33 points against the Tar Heels on Saturday, he also had eight turnovers. His performance overshined this glaring statistic that hurt the Eagles several times throughout the game. Many of Bowman’s turnovers were unforced errors as he picked up his dribble too early and had no one to pass the ball to. Bowman and Robinson have been prone to turning the ball over all year long, and Miami will have one of the best defensive backcourts that they have played all season. Miami averages allowing 61.1 points per game against, which is 11th-best in the country. BC must take good care of the ball so that they can prevent the athletic guards of Miami from getting out in transition and scoring easy buckets. Miami is much less talented at scoring in the halfcourt relative to BC’s recent opponents.
  2. Make Outside Shots Early: As noted above, Miami is not an especially gifted offensive team. The Hurricanes score 72.3 points per game, which ranks them 217th in the country. Miami is also a team that is prone to scoring droughts. This past Saturday, it led Duke 37-27 before allowing a 20-0 run to the Blue Devils. Miami did not convert a field goal for six minutes, and committed several turnovers contributing to Duke’s scoring stretch. If BC’s guards have the hot hand from the 3-point line, they will set the tone for the rest of the game. Miami likes to run on teams, and if it succumbs to an early deficit, BC should be able to control the pace of the game by milking the shot clock on its offensive possessions. Furthermore, BC’s lack of a strong offensive game inside the paint makes it pivotal that its outside shooters are effective. Throughout the season, BC has not had the ability to rely on getting easy buckets from its big men, which makes it much hard to mount a comeback against a good team.
  3. Limit Second-Chance Opportunities: BC lacks size with its biggest starter being 6-foot-9 forward Mo Jeffers. North Carolina killed the Eagles on the offensive glass in the second half this past Saturday with 10 offensive rebounds. The Tar Heels outscored BC 24-14 in second chance points as a result. Miami does not shoot the ball especially well from the field. With a team field goal percentage of 46 percent, it ranks 101st in the country. The key to the Eagles’ success in this aspect of the game will be keeping Jeffers out of foul trouble. Throughout the season, he has been prone to getting in foul trouble early, and BC has struggled to compete in these games. Most notably, Jeffers fouled out against Wake Forest in just eight minutes. On Saturday, Jeffers was a key contributor as he led the team in rebounds and had three blocks. Another player to be on the look out for will be Garland Owens, as he comes off a strong game against UNC in which he played a pivotal role on the boards.

Featured Image by Keith Garrett / Heights Staff