A week after clinching the program’s first winning season since 2010-11, 12th-seeded Boston College (18-14, 7-11 Atlantic Coast) kept their season alive with an 87-77 victory over 13th-seeded Georgia Tech (13-19, 6-12) on Tuesday in the opening round of the 2018 ACC Tournament. Though the victory was a bit sloppy—BC made only two 3-pointers and committed 17 turnovers—the Eagles hit their free throws late and held the Yellow Jackets to 40 percent shooting on their way to the second round.
As its reward, BC will now face fifth-seeded North Carolina State (21-10, 11-7) on Wednesday afternoon. The game offers the Eagles the opportunity to win at least two games in a conference tournament for the first time since 2005-06, the first year the team played in the ACC.
Who is BC playing?
North Carolina State
When is BC playing?
Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2 p.m.
Where is BC playing?
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
How to Watch:
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and can be streamed online via WatchESPN.
By the Numbers:
1) The Eagles’ 2-for-14 shooting performance from beyond the arc against Georgia Tech was the team’s worst 3-point performance of the season. Before Tuesday’s victory, BC was 1-6 in games where it made less than 30 percent of its triples. While Ky Bowman’s stellar stat line—the sophomore point guard racked up 26 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists—and efficient scoring in the paint helped BC overcome the lack of floor spacing for one day, the team will likely need to return to its esteemed levels of marksmanship to notch any further wins in Brooklyn.
2) Nik Popovic scored a career-high 20 points on Tuesday. The Bosnian sophomore was a force in the pick and roll with Bowman and finished effectively around the rim, something that has often eluded him in the past. If Popovic can continue to build on this moving forward—calmly finishing around the rim instead of rapidly flinging the ball off the backboard in fear of being blocked—Bowman and Jerome Robinson should be able to take their pick and roll games to the next level.
3) On Tuesday, all five of BC’s starters played at least 32 minutes and ran at least 2.16 miles. While this hefty workload isn’t exactly new to those players, the rapid turnaround between games certainly is. During conference play, where teams get at least one day of rest—and more often two or three—between games, BC’s starters had some time to recover from their high intensity outings. On Wednesday, the Eagles will be forced to test their lack of depth and overall endurance in ways that only a conference tournament can bring about.
1) The Wolfpack won five of its last six ACC games to finish with 11 conference wins this season, its most since 2012-13. Head coach Kevin Keatts has turned around the program after Mark Gottfried won just nine combined ACC games over his final two season in Raleigh.
2) Only six teams in Division I force opponents to score a lower percentage of their points from downtown than N.C. State. Keatts’ team makes it a point to run opposing shooters off the 3-point line and aggressively contest attempts. BC made just 4-of-25 treys in its loss in Raleigh two weeks ago. Yet, this strategy does give opponents plenty of chances to attack the rim with the defense scrambling, leading to quality shot attempts—N.C. State opponents have made 56.4 percent of their 2-point shots during ACC play, the worst mark in the conference.
3) Al Freeman—the Wolfpack’s graduate transfer from Baylor—has averaged 20.2 points per game on 45 percent shooting over the last six contests, serving as a key catalyst for the team’s revival. For a player who has shot just 36.7 percent over the whole season, this recent stretch has been a welcome addition to N.C. State’s nightly gameplan. Freeman can create shots for himself off the dribble whenever necessary and has deep range—shooting 45.2 percent from 3-point land during that span.
Just two weeks ago, the Wolfpack toppled BC, 82-66, in Raleigh. Although BC held a 6-1 lead seven minutes into the game, N.C. State made an incredible 17-of-19 shots over the remaining 12:30 of the first half to take a 16-point lead into the locker room at the break. Robinson suffered a nasty fall on his left side midway through the half, forcing him out of the lineup for a bit and completely ruining any rhythm the Eagles had on offense. Despite returning in the second half, he finished the game shooting just 4-for-20 from the field. BC never seriously threatened to mount a comeback toward the tail end of the game.
BC wins if…
It manages to crack the Wolfpack’s stingy 3-point defense and get clean looks for Robinson, Bowman, and Jordan Chatman. Without a heavy contribution from beyond the arc, it’s unlikely that the Eagles will be able to defeat a team that possesses a much more potent offense than GT’s.
BC loses if…
The Wolfpack lockdown the Eagles’ perimeter shooters, much like they did the last time these two teams played. If N.C. State can prevent BC from having any of those stretches where it hits multiple 3-pointers within two or three minutes, the Wolfpack should be able to carve up a suspect Eagles interior defense, come out on top, and advance to the quarterfinals.
Featured Image by Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP Photo