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

The last three games for Boston College men’s basketball have been remarkably similar in many aspects. The Eagles have fallen victim to slow starts before surging in the second half to make each game competitive. Down the stretch, though, BC failed to close out all three games as it fell 78-77 to Miami, then 85-79 to Virginia Tech, and most recently 85-80 to Wake Forest. The Eagles now find themselves in the middle of a six-game losing streak with a challenging second half of their ACC schedule awaiting them.

On Saturday, BC (9-14, 2-8 Atlantic Coast) will look to achieve its biggest win of the season as No. 6 Louisville (18-4, 6-3) visits the Heights. The Cardinals are the highest nationally-ranked team in the ACC.

Following a successful trial run against Wake Forest, expect to see the Eagles use Jordan Chatman in their starting lineup for a second-straight game, with A.J. Turner coming off the bench. Over the past three games, Chatman has emerged as a consistent third scoring option, as he has shot 15-for-22 from 3-point land. Chatman has given BC fans much to be excited about in the future, and Saturday will provide an opportunity to solidify his worth on the big stage. Head coach Jim Christian’s lineup shakeup also shows a willingness to experiment as the Eagles have struggled to pick up their third conference win after starting 2-2 in conference play. A win this Saturday will provide great momentum for the program heading into the final stretch of the season.

Last Time They Played:

The day before these schools met up last year, Louisville implemented a self-imposed postseason ban amidst an NCAA investigation into a recruiting violation they committed. The emotional taxation that came about from this ban, however, did not seem to affect the Cardinals as they effortlessly handled the Eagles 79-47. Going into last year’s contest, Louisville sported an identical 18-4 record. In this game, Louisville jumped out to a quick 19-2 start, before outscoring the Eagles 32-14 at the half. BC shot just 38 percent for the game as the now-transferred Sammy Barnes-Thompkins led the team with 11 points. Notably, the Eagles lacked a key playmaker against the Cardinals’ stifling defense as Jerome Robinson sat out with a broken wrist. Louisville’s defense forced the Eagles into 18 turnovers in this game, and held BC to 28 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Louisville Scouting Report:

Louisville has had to replace its three top scorers from last year as well its top rebounder. As everyone has come to expect with Louisville under head coach Rick Pitino, however, the Cardinals have not regressed. This year, Louisville has relied on sophomore Donovan Mitchell and junior Quentin Snider to pick up the production at the guard position. Deng Adel, Anas Mahmoud, and Jaylen Johnson round out the starting lineup for the Cardinals in the frontcourt. Louisville is a team that is fairly similar to Miami in that they play great defense and score primarily inside the perimeter. The Cardinals are third-to-last in the ACC in 3-point shooting at 35.9 percent, and second-to-last in the ACC in field goal percentage at 45.1 percent. That being said, they allow the 13th-fewest points per game in the country at 62.1 points.

Mitchell is an athletic guard who leads the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game. Mitchell does a great job of getting to the basket, and has improved his stroke from 3-point land, as he leads the team in 3-pointers and shoots 37 percent. Snider averages 12.5 points per game, but is less efficient from the field. He is shooting 37 percent from the field this season, and is slightly more dangerous from the 3-point line at 37.5 percent.

The Cardinals’ frontcourt is very fundamentally talented. They help the Cardinals grab the 7th most rebounds per game in the country at 41.5 per game, and they have great shot blocking ability in Mahmoud and Mangkok Mathiang. In BC’s last game, John Collins of Wake Forest torched the Eagles’ bigs to the tune of 26 points, as Nik Popovic and Mo Jeffers fouled out of the game. The Cardinals’ bigs will provide less of a challenge for BC’s big men, and will score the majority of its baskets on feeds from their guards. Johnson will provide the biggest challenge for the Eagles with his 6-foot-9 length—he also shoots 60 percent from the field.

Louisville does not have a player who is capable of taking over a game like many teams at the top of the ACC, but it does know how to win. The Cardinals are extremely well-coached, and are not prone to make many mistakes. They have had several wins against elite teams such as Kentucky, Duke, and Notre Dame. In each of Louisville’s four losses, they have scored 70 points or less. Most recently they fell to Florida State, 73-68, after the Seminoles jumped out to a 14-0 lead to start the game and limited the Cardinals to 38.5 percent shooting.

Three Keys to Victory:

 

  • Jerome Robinson in the First Half: Robinson has led the team in scoring since the start of the season as he averages 19.7 points per game. During BC’s six-game losing streak, Robinson has averaged 2.8 points in the first half of games. He has picked up for his poor first half performances by averaging 12.8 points in the second half. Robinson’s second-half scoring has helped the Eagles make four of the six games competitive during their streak, but it also has contributed to many large halftime deficits. Louisville is one of the best teams BC will play this season, and Robinson must play well in the first half for BC to have a chance to win. The Cardinals will be a more difficult team to mount a large comeback against compared to Miami and Virginia Tech.
  • Stay Out of Foul Trouble: BC led by as many as eight points in the second half against Wake Forest before eventually losing by five. Down the stretch, Popovic and Jeffers fouled out of the game as the Demon Deacons went on a 15-6 run to close out the contest. While Louisville is not as talented inside as Wake Forest, BC’s bigs must stay out of foul trouble in order for BC to remain competitive. Jeffers showed how much of a difference maker he can be against North Carolina as he blocked three shots. Without Jeffers and Popovic, BC lacks the athletic ability and size to slow down Louisville. Look for the Eagles to test a 2-3 zone against Louisville to keep their big men out of foul trouble and test the Cardinals’ shooting abilities.

 

Get the Crowd into It: Against North Carolina, the student section was full and rocking for the only time all season. Louisville is shaping up to have a similar atmosphere if BC can keep the game close the way it did with North Carolina. The students are looking for something to cheer for and people will flock down to Conte if they hear that the game is close. Many people reminisce about storming the field against Southern California in 2014, Saturday offers an opportunity for the same kind of memorable experience.