Previewing 2017-18 Men’s Basketball: First Round of NIT Vs. Western Kentucky

bc men's basketball

Less than a week after shocking the ACC at the Barclays Center—knocking off Georgia Tech and North Carolina State en route to an appearance in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals—Boston College men’s basketball (19-15, 7-11 Atlantic Coast) has reached another milestone in the team’s rebuilding process. Tuesday night, the Eagles will travel down to Kentucky to face the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (24-10, 14-4 Conference U.S.A.) in the first round of the NIT, marking BC’s first postseason appearance since 2010-11.

As the team’s national profile grows, with Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson leading the charge, BC has both the opportunity and the talent to seize the momentum from its excellent trip to Brooklyn and win a few games in the NIT, setting the Eagles up for a potential return to the NCAA Tournament next season.   

Who is BC playing?

Western Kentucky

When is BC playing?

Tuesday, March 13, 8 p.m.

Where is BC playing?

E.A. Diddle Arena, Bowling Green, Ky.

How to Watch:

The game will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN3 and can be streamed online via WatchESPN.

By the Numbers:

BC:

1.) In their three games in Brooklyn, the Eagles shot 21-for-68 from beyond the arc—30.9 percent. The number sits well below BC’s average in conference play, 37.5 percent, although the team’s 3-point shooting percentage did increase in each successive game. Robinson was the main culprit, shooting just 6-for-22 from long range, after knocking down 44.5 percent of his triples in ACC play—third in the conference.

2.) Bowman—who was named to the All-ACC Tournament Second Team last week—averaged 24.3 points per game and shot 28 free throws during the three games at Barclays, the most he has averaged over any three-game stretch this season. In the midst of a streak of five consecutive games with 20 or more points, Bowman is playing his best basketball at the right time. BC will need his aggressive drives to the rim to advance anywhere in the NIT.

3.) Nik Popovic also had two of his best games of the season in Brooklyn, averaging 17.5 points in the two wins against Georgia Tech and N.C. State. The Bosnian sophomore efficiently finished in the pick and roll and made excellent cuts along the baseline to serve as a safety valve against N.C. State’s trapping defense.  

Western Kentucky:

1.) The Hilltoppers excel at getting easy points, while refusing to concede them on the other end of the floor. Head coach Rick Stansbury’s team shot the most free throws of any team during Conference U.S.A. play and allowed its opponents to shoot the fewest number of free throws. Western Kentucky scored 150 more points than its opponents at the free throw line during conference play, a margin of 8.33 points per game.

2.) Much like BC, Western Kentucky makes limited use of its bench. Only four teams in the nation—including BC—use their bench less than the Hilltoppers. However, unlike BC, their bench players contribute to the team’s scoring. Freshman guard Josh Anderson averaged 7.7 points per game off the bench for Stansbury, shooting 56 percent from the field.

3.) Power forward Justin Johnson is the Hilltoppers’ best player. The senior averaged 15.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc. With that shooting touch, the 6-foot-7, 245-pound Johnson possesses uncommon versatility, able to wreak havoc in pick and rolls, pick and pops, and down on the block.

Last Meeting:

BC has only faced Western Kentucky once in school history—Dec. 29, 1982—with the Hilltoppers upsetting the Eagles, 74-68, at Conte Forum.

BC wins if…

It keeps Western Kentucky off the free throw line and prevents Jackson from dominating in the paint. On the offensive end of the floor, Robinson must be extremely efficient for BC to steal a game on the road.

BC loses if…

The Hilltoppers use their size inside to keep Robinson and Bowman from the basket and force the Eagles’ dynamic duo into tough, mid-range shots. If they can run the Eagles off the 3-point line and limit open looks in the paint, the Hilltoppers should be able to win, given their offensive efficiency.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff