Previewing 2017-18 Men’s Basketball: North Carolina

Boston College men’s basketball finds itself with an even 2-2 record in conference play and a matchup with No. 20 North Carolina looming. Sound familiar? It is. A year ago, the Eagles were in the same spot, albeit with a slightly worse overall record, and went on to drop the next 15 conference games in a row—including an eight-point loss against the Tar Heels.

This season, however, there’s a greater sense of optimism surrounding the team, and rightfully so. BC narrowly lost to ranked opponents Virginia and Clemson, upset then-No. 1 Duke, and beat Wake Forest for the first time since March 2015.

The Eagles (11-5, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) will head to Chapel Hill on Tuesday to take on the Tar Heels (12-4, 1-2), who’ve won the last 10 meetings between the teams. A win in the Dean Smith Center would almost certainly earn BC national attention, while a narrow loss would remind the conference that the Eagles are clearly a tough out in the weeks to come.

Who is BC playing?

North Carolina

When is BC playing?

Tuesday, Jan. 9, 8 p.m.

Where is BC playing?

Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C.

How to watch:

The game will be broadcasted on the ACC Network and available on WatchESPN.

By the Numbers:

BC:

1) One of the biggest problems for the Eagles against UNC a year ago was reaching the free throw line, so it’s promising that they’re coming off a season-high 35 free throw attempts against Wake Forest.

2) Jerome Robinson is fourth in the ACC in scoring (18.5 points per game), but has been on another level in conference play. In four games, the junior guard is averaging 26.5 points per contests and shooting 59.3 percent from beyond the arc.

3) No team in the ACC relies on a set of guards like the Eagles—the trio of Robinson, Ky Bowman, and Jordan Chatman are all in the top 10 in the conference for total minutes played.

UNC:

1) The Tar Heels have dropped two in a row for the first time since February 2016, falling by one point to No. 24 Florida State and then committing 19 turnovers in a blowout loss to No. 9 Virginia.

2) Led by Luke Maye, who is second in the ACC in rebounding (10.5 rebounds per game), UNC is one of the most ferocious teams on the glass in the country—the Tar Heels rank third behind Duke and Michigan State in total rebound percentage (57.9 percent), the rate at which a team rebounds a missed shot or free throw.

3) UNC plays at an efficient, up-tempo pace. It ranks 23rd in KenPom’s tempo (averaging 74.3 possessions per game) and has the 14th-shortest average possession length (14.9 seconds) in the nation.

Last Meeting:

Lifted by the return of Bowman’s red hair, the Eagles kept it close and lost to the visiting Tar Heels by single digits, 90-82. Bowman tied a career high with 33 points against the school he’d previously committed to play football for, but even that wasn’t enough against an overpowering frontcourt. No. 9 UNC scored 56 points down low, anchored by Kennedy Meeks 20-point, nine-rebound performance. Justin Jackson added 22 for the Tar Heels, the eventual national champions.

BC wins if…

Virginia provided the blueprint for beating the Tar Heels—keeping them off the offensive boards and disrupting passing lanes to force shot clock violations. The Eagles will need to bear down on defense to force UNC out of its normal rhythm and limit second-chance points. It’s no easy task, considering that the Tar Heels are one of the top rebounding teams in the country. Paired with Robinson continuing his streak of 20-point games and Bowman repeating last year’s efforts, the Eagles have the weapons to hang with the Tar Heels—much like they did against Duke in December.

BC loses if…

The inside-out duo of Maye and All-American guard Joel Berry II is too much for BC to handle. If the Eagles can’t keep the Tar Heels off the offensive glass and give up too many second-chance points, they won’t be able to keep up with their ACC foe. UNC is dangerous from beyond the 3-point arc, so BC could have a hard time containing the Tar Heels on the outside, especially after it struggled to defend the perimeter against Wake Forest last time out. UNC has scored over 80 points in seven of its last 10 meetings, so if any of BC’s guards have an off day, it’ll be a tough game for the Eagles to win.

Featured Image by Keith Carroll / Heights Staff

Bradley Smart
About Bradley Smart 159 Articles
Bradley is the associate sports editor for The Heights. He believes that America does truly run on Dunkin, March is the best month, baseball teams should always wear stirrups, and being down 3-1, in anything, is never cause for concern. You can follow him on Twitter @bradleysmart15.