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Takeaways: BC drops to Virginia Tech, letting another one slip away

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Recap:

Last Tuesday night, Boston College had yet another game escape their grasp, losing to Virginia Tech by a score of 76-71, falling to 11-8 (2-6 ACC) in the process. The Eagles followed the same script they have for most of ACC play: going down double digits in the first half, fighting nearly all the way back in the second half, but, in the end, coming up just short of a win. This game was an extremely winnable one, as BC’s front court was able to impose their size. Devin McGlockton and Quinten Post led the way, with 19 and 15 points, respectively, shooting a combined 16-23 from the field. Prince Aligbe added 9 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting, and Armani Mighty had a career-high 6 points. However, it was the back court struggles, and turnovers that hindered the Eagles. The Eagles turned the ball over an astounding 15 times, and the five Eagle guards that saw the floor combined for just 22 points on 8-30 shooting, with 14 points coming on Claudell Harris’ 16 shots. 

Postseason Slipping Away:

With the Eagles’ most recent loss, they now drop to 2-6 in the ACC, which is tied for 12th in the conference with Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. What has been billed as a potential “breakthrough” year for the Eagles, is quickly slipping away from them. After getting off to their best start in years, with a 9-2 out-of-conference record, BC is now rapidly approaching the .500 mark. At this point, an NIT bid would be pushing the Eagles’ luck, much less an NCAA Tournament bid. 

After, in my opinion, overachieving in his first two seasons at the helm for the Eagles, Coach Grant is in danger of taking an ill-afforded step back. The Eagles came into this season primed for a shot at playing big games in March. By no means was March Madness the expectation, but it certainly was a real possibility. And to see that possibility slipping away before the end of January is extremely frustrating for fans that believe in this team’s talent. 

BC’s last shot at making the tournament is likely the path taken by Virginia Tech two seasons ago. This path would dictate the Eagles fighting to a top-nine place in the ACC standings, thereby securing a bye in the ACC tournament, and, finally, running the table. Four wins in four days. It’s not a path frequently traveled, and it’s not a path that’s extremely likely, but it’s the only remaining path for BC. 

The Eagles will likely fall short of this path, and that would not make the season a disappointment. But, a step back from last season’s improvement, with a roster as talented as this one, would be enough to make the season a disappointment in my eyes. Thankfully, for us fans, there’s a lot of basketball to be played, with 12 remaining ACC games. The Eagles should have a chance to win nearly all of these games, and thus, still have chance to make something out of this season 

Same Old, Same Old:

What is especially disheartening about the season thus far is how the Eagles seem to be playing the same game, over and over again. Of BC’s six losses in the ACC, four of them have come in shockingly similar fashion. Going down 10+ points in the first half, storming out of the locker room and fighting all the way back, yet coming up short in the end. NC State, Wake Forest, Syracuse, and now Virginia Tech, all within reach. It’s understandable to drop a couple close games every year, but to go winless? Not exactly ideal for a “breakthrough” season.

It’s almost unsettling to play the what-if game, and think about the outlook on this season had the Eagles merely split those four close losses. BC would be sitting at 13-6 (4-4 ACC), with a close loss to the 3rd-ranked team in the country. Fans would be through the roof, and excited to see what the remaining 12 ACC games have in store. Though, in fairness, the same could be said for both of the Eagles’ ACC wins, as they trailed both Notre Dame and Georgia Tech by double digits. However, after this most recent game, fans are left dreading that the Eagle’s end-of-game woes will never end, and that they are doomed to be a perpetual bottom-five ACC team.

This BC basketball team is far too talented for fans to simply accept these results as part of a developmental process. Post is as talented as any big man in the conference. Zackery has shown he can be elite as a facilitator and a defender. A month ago, Harris Jr. was looking like BC’s best pure scorer since Ky Bowman. And Devin McGlockton will be in talks for the ACC’s most improved player of the year. Yet, through eight ACC games, they are in the exact same spot as they were last season. 

Holding Down the Paint:

If there’s any positives to be gleaned from last Tuesday’s loss, it’s the stellar play of the Eagle front court. In the first half, the quartet of Post, McGlockton, Aligbe, and Mighty were responsible for 30 of BC’s 33 points. Post was looking like himself, scoring 15 points on an efficient 7-10 from the field. Though, some fans might have wanted to see BC’s leading scorer take more than just ten field goal attempts. While Post played up to his standard, it was McGlockton who looked like the best Eagle on the floor in Blacksburg. McGlockton scored his 19 points on 9-13 shooting, and made his lone three-point attempt. McGlockton has been averaging 13.8 points per game in the ACC, and has been BC’s most efficient scorer by far, shooting 59.8% from the field. BC’s next most efficient starter is Post at 50.4%

After his 14-point performance against UNC, Aligbe had another solid offensive performance. Aligbe got his 9 points on 4-4 shooting from the field, and made his second three pointer in as many games. After seeing the sophomore forward struggle offensively, it was refreshing to see him have a second consecutive game where he looked comfortable. Lastly, sophomore center Armani Mighty had the best game of his young BC career. Mighty’s stats don’t jump off the sheet, only putting up 6 points and 2 rebounds. But, the young center continues to look better and better as the season progresses, and he has been allowing Post to get some much needed rest on the bench. 

Suspect Perimeter Defense:

My final takeaway from this game against the Hokies is that the Eagles desperately need to defend the three point line. BC is ranked 294th nationally, and dead-last in the ACC in opponent’s three-point percentage. As it stands, the Eagles’ opponents are converting on 35.7% of their attempts from beyond the arc. While this may be due, in part, to sheer chance, it’s not difficult to notice that the Eagles have given up far too many open looks from three. The main reason BC went into the locker room trailing the Hokies by eleven is that the Hokies shot 6-10  from three. Admittedly, Hunter Cattoor and Sean Pedulla are among the best three point shooters in the ACC, but Grant has to adjust for this, and limit their open looks. 

And unfortunately, defending the three point line was not a struggle unique to last Tuesday night. There have been several key possessions where the game outcome was largely determined by the opponents knocking down wide open threes late in the game. Looking back on some examples: Up two points in OT against NC State, the Eagles allowed Casey Morsell to knock down an open three to regain the lead. Down one point against Wake, the Eagles’ defense broke down and allowed Wake to extend their lead to four points on a wide-open three from Andrew Carr. Up two points against Notre Dame, the Irish got an open look in the corner out of a timeout (which Carey Booth thankfully missed). So, if the Eagles want to actually come out on the winning side of these close games, defending the three-point line has to become more of a priority. 

What’s Next:

After taking consecutive losses, the Eagles will travel to South Bend, Indiana, for a Saturday afternoon matchup against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Boston College took the win in their first matchup against Notre Dame, and will look to sweep the Irish for the second straight season. The last time Boston College traveled to South Bend, Quinten Post scored a career-high 29 points, and led the Eagles to an 84-72 victory. With a win, the Eagles would bump their record up to 3-6 in the ACC, and likely improve to 11th place in the standings. With a loss, BC would fall to 2-7 in the ACC, and fall to 13th or 14th in the standings.

Despite the growing frustration around the Eagles’ team, the next game against Notre Dame remains an extremely important one, as there aren’t many games remaining more winnable than this one on the schedule. Seeing as the Eagles have dropped their last few “must-wins”, I’m not going to label this game as one. But, if BC wants fans to stay bought in, and to keep packing Conte, they’re going to need some sort of momentum before they return home to face Syracuse next Tuesday night.

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Florida State 84, Boston College 76: Eagles struggle to defend Seminoles

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Boston College fell to Florida State 84-76 Tuesday night in Tallahassee, as despite a quick start scoring-wise the Eagles struggled to defend a similarly-hot-handed Seminoles team that dropped the Eagles to 6-9 in conference play.

It was back-and-forth very early on, with the first missed shot of the game not coming until almost four minutes in. The first half ended in a high-scoring 43-43 knot.

Things stayed even until roughly the halfway mark of the second half when FSU went on a 10-0 run that gave them a 70-61 advantage, the largest lead of the entire game for both sides. That ended up being the deciding factor, as the Eagles were unable to get within less than eight from that point on.

BC had four players in double-figures for scoring-wise, getting just eight points from the bench. Jaeden Zackery led the way with 19 on 3-for-3 from 3-point range, while Mason Madsen hit four 3s and put up 14. Quinten Post tallied 15 with seven of those points coming from the charity strike and Devin McGlockton also put up 13 points. The lone starting five member not in double-digits was Claudell Harris, who went just 1-for-5 from beyond the arch inducing just seven points out of him.

Boston College will continue the road trip and take on NC State Saturday in Raleigh at 2:00 p.m. ET, with the Eagles hoping to avoid the double-digit mark of losses in ACC play. The Wolfpack are losers of three out of their last four, however.

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Takeaways: BC Defends Homecourt against Louisville and Miami

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Mason Madsen hitting one of his seven threes. Photo Courtesy of Canes County

Recap:

Last week, the Boston College Men’s Basketball team was able to defend home court twice: on Tuesday night against Louisville, and on Saturday afternoon against Miami. Late Tuesday night, the Eagles were able to overcome a sluggish start, and an empty Conte Forum, and beat the last-place Louisville Cardinals 89-77. The Eagles saw six players reach double figures in scoring, led by Claudell Harris Jr.’s 20 points,  Devin McGlockton’s 19 points, and Quinten Post’s 17 points. This win was especially crucial for BC, as they were coming off consecutive losses to FSU and Duke, and allowed the Eagles to stay in contact with the middle tier of the ACC. 

After taking down Louisville in a desolate Conte Forum, the Eagles returned to their home court on Saturday to a much different scene. With a much more fan-friendly tipoff time of 4PM, Conte played host to an excellent crowd for their matchup against Miami. And, to the delight of the Eagle-faithful, BC got off to a scorching hot start, taking an 18-7 lead early on. While the Hurricanes were able to even the score at halftime, and take as much as a five-point lead late in the second half, Mason Madsen’s hot hand, and Post’s dominance in the paint were enough to propel the Eagles to an 85-77 victory. 

Offensive Excellence:

After scoring just 62 against FSU and 65 against Duke, I was beginning to lose faith in Coach Grant’s offensive system. However, these past two games have been excellent offensive showings for the Eagles. Against Louisville, BC scored a remarkable 89 points on 56.7% from the field, and 47.8% from behind the arc. And it wasn’t that the Eags were knocking down uncharacteristically difficult shots. Grant’s offense was actually able to generate great looks for open shooters, racking up 21 assists in the process. 

While it might not have been surprising to see the Eagles rack up 89 points on the last place team in the ACC, it was certainly encouraging to see them follow up with a similar performance against Miami. In Saturday’s game, the offense put up 85 points on similarly efficient splits of 47.5% from the field and 50% (15-30!) from three. Madsen and Post led the way offensively, accounting for 15 of the Eagles’ 28 converted field goals. If Grant can keep the offense humming the way it has for the past two outings, each of the six games remaining on the schedule look very winnable. 

Madsen Madness:

Since being inserted into the starting lineup against Duke, Mason Madsen has been an absolute revelation for the Eagles. In the past three games, the Eagles are 2-1, with their lone loss coming away at Duke. Throughout that three game span, Madsen has led the Eagles in scoring, averaging 17 points per game. And the highlight of this stretch came in his 25-point performance against Miami, where he hit (possibly) the most important three-pointer of the Eagles’ season. 

Madsen absolutely torched the Hurricanes from behind the arc, knocking down a career-high seven three pointers en route to the win. With Madsen’s latest hot streak from three, he is now shooting 45.8% from beyond the arc, which is well above the 90th percentile in Division One. With Madsen now in the starting lineup, the Eagles now have three serious threats from behind the arc, with Post hitting 46.1% of his attempts, and Harris Jr. hitting 38.9% of his. The spacing and offensive flow of Grant’s new-look starting five is enormously better with Madsen in for Aligbe, but we will see if the Eagles can survive without Aligbe’s size and added rebounding. 

Defensive Concerns:

While the offense was clicking on all cylinders last week, I cannot help but be a bit concerned about the Eagles’ defense. In an interesting contrast to Grant’s first two seasons, where the Eagles hung their hats on their ability to defend, this iteration of the Eagles’ roster is much more capable offensively, but has shown some cracks on the defensive end. For example, BC gave up 47 first half points on 51% shooting against Louisville. While Louisville has shown some ability to score, there is no legitimate reason to allow the last place team in the ACC to run up the score like that. Thankfully, the Eagles woke up on defense in the second frame, only allowing 30 second half points. 

Next, against Miami, at times it felt like the Hurricanes could get whatever look they wanted on offense. The Hurricanes shot 56% in the first half, and frankly, it could have been much worse. The Eagles seemed flummoxed by the Hurricane’s pick and roll, and whenever Post was switched off of Miami’s Norchad Omier, it seemed to always result in an open shot. Though I will give Grant credit for switching to his “amoeba” defense down the stretch. While Miami was able to exploit the Eagle’s man-to-man defense, they struggled with the matchup-zone look in the waning minutes. BC’s defense down the stretch was the key to igniting their 17-4 run to end the game. 

Outlook on the Remaining Schedule:

Thanks to the Eagles’ 2-0 homestand, they are now in contact with the middle of the ACC. After falling to 13-10 (4-8 ACC) after Duke, they were in real danger of dooming themselves to the basement of the ACC. But, with eight teams within two games of each other in the ACC standings, the Eagles will have several opportunities to continue climbing the ladder. BC’s remaining schedule consists of road games against Florida State and NC State, a homestand against UVA and Pitt, and a pair of road games against Miami and Pitt.

The good news for the Eagles? All six of these games are extremely winnable. The bad news? All six of these games are also losable. The margin for error is razor thin in this final stretch of the regular season. But, if the Eagles can find a way to win 3-4 of these games, they could be in contention for a first round bye in the ACC tournament, and perhaps a bid to the NIT. 

What’s Next:

Boston College returns to action Tuesday night at 7PM, when they will take on the aforementioned Florida State Seminoles. After losing a gut-wrenching 63-62 game to the Seminoles in Conte Forum, the Eagles will be looking for revenge. This game also has severe implications for the ACC standings, as FSU holds a one-game lead over BC in the standings. The Seminoles open as 4.5-point favorites against the Eagles. 

A win would go a long way towards securing that first-round bye, but even more so for the energy surrounding the program. We just saw what a packed Conte Forum can look like against Miami. So it is imperative that the Eagles return home with some kind of momentum, and get fans invested in the team’s stretch run.

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Boston College 85, Miami 77: Mason Madsen hits career-highs in Eagles win over Hurricanes

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Mason Madsen had a day to remember for Boston College Saturday, as he led the Eagles past Miami with a career-high seven 3-pointers and 25 points. BC won, 85-77, as they kept the momentum from a quick start all the way through.

The Eagles were ahead fast and early, jumping out to an 18-7 lead just five minutes into the ballgame. Miami eventually caught up to them though in a back-and-forth, high-scoring battle — the Hurricanes tied it at 29-29 with 7:41 to go in the first half. They battled until the end of the half, when it was tied 41-41 after 20 minutes of play.

It remained back-and-forth but Miami began to gain an edge about halfway through the second half. They then held on to a lead from the 12-minute mark all the way to the three-minute mark, but the Eagles’ deficit didn’t get further than four points away from the Hurricanes. A Claudell Harris Jr. layup with three minutes to go made it 74-73 Eagles, and they added on from there. Madsen knocked down a 3 before a pair of Devin McGlockton converted free throws put them in front by six with a minute to go, and they held on to that lead with a few baskets made from both sides to give BC the 85-77 victory.

Quinten Post had 23 for the Eagles, a big night for him after he had been struggling the past few outings, also knocking down a trio of 3-pointers. Harris Jr. had 15 while Jaeden Zackery added 11 to go along with seven assists. McGlockton picked up a team-best 10 rebounds.

BC moves to 6-8 in conference play Tuesday night in Tallahassee as they take on Florida State with a 7 p.m. ET tip. They continue the road trip with a matchup against the Wolfpack a week from today, as NC State plays hosts to BC next Saturday afternoon in the 2:00 p.m. ET slot.

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