The latest installment in our basketball Q&A series, with Brian Favat of BC Interruption, SB Nation's destination for all things Boston College Eagles.
TT: It's safe to say 2013 hasn't started auspiciously for either Maryland or Boston College. What, specifically, has gone wrong in the first nine games for the 3-6 Eagles?
BCI: It’s truly been a perfect storm of suck for BC so far this season. At the 10,000-foot level, BC’s 3-6 record is mostly a product of a challenging, road/neutral heavy schedule. Donahue set an extremely road/neutral heavy schedule this season in the hopes that a strong SOS would give the Eagles’ postseason tournament resume a boost (citing last year’s Boise State team as an example for doing so). That plan has backfired in SPECTACULAR fashion. Close losses to Providence (82-78 OT), Toledo (95-92) and UConn (72-70), combined with listless second half performances against UMass (86-73), Purdue (88-67) and USC (78-62) have really shaken this team’s confidence. The Eagles will need to rebound – literally and figuratively – and fast if they have any hopes of salvaging this season.
At a team level, it’s been a very difficult adjustment for BC with respect to the NCAA’s new hand-check rules. The first few games the fouls really piled up and the rotations got all out of whack as a result. As a team that’s not that great at things like defense and rebounding, the new rules have had an adverse effect over those first few games as the team adjusted. Even in year three operating with a roster full of talent Donahue recruited, there is startlingly little depth behind the household names (Olivier Hanlan, Ryan Anderson and Joe Rahon). Guys like Lonnie Jackson (6.3 ppg), Patrick Heckmann (4.1) and Eddie Odio (3.4) are down from their season averages from a year ago. BC simply isn’t going to win many games unless they get some production from guys not named Hanlan, Anderson and Rahon. No one has really stepped up thus far.
That issue really came to a head in the game at USC. Donahue tried all sorts of rotations with little success. With due respect to guys like KC Caudill and Danny Rubin, when one or both are getting extended minutes on the floor, something is pretty off.
TT: Could you describe the system BC plays in under Donahue?
BCI: Donahue’s system involves spreading out the defense by getting all five players involved on the offensive end of the floor. The offensive system involves a lot of passing, slashing to the hoop and finding the open guy on the perimeter for an open look from beyond the arc. The team relies heavily on the three ball and all five guys on the floor – even 6-foot-11 center Will Magarity – is capable of launching the ball from deep. When the three isn’t falling or when teams start to defend, BC tends to go back inside with a lot of penetration and slashes to the hoop.
It’s actually a highly efficient offense similar to the one John Beilein runs at Michigan. The problem is defense and rebounding is optional.
TT: Forward Ryan Anderson has been good for a while, but (at least numbers-wise), he's been really excellent so far. He's making more free throws than ever before and scoring a ton (18 PPG). Is there any way the Terps can get him under control?
BCI: It’s not just Anderson. For whatever reason, Boston College has been excellent from the line this season. Not sure if that’s something that Donahue really worked with the team on during the offseason or not, but with an increased number of foul calls, BC has taken advantage by hitting more of their attempts from the charity stripe. The Eagles are up to 80.8% from the line; that’s up nearly 10% on last year’s 71.2% average.
Anderson (18.0 ppg) and Hanlan (19.2) are going to get their points. I’d even argue that Hanlan’s average should be even higher as I’m not sure the offense goes through him enough as he’s one of the few weapons BC does have against the new hand-check rules.
If I was the Terps, I’d be less concerned about Anderson and Hanlan getting their points – which I’m assuming they will – and more concerned with shutting down BC’s third (Rahon?) and fourth (whoever is hot on the night?) scoring options. As we’ve seen during BC’s six losses in nine games, if BC can’t get a third or fourth scorer going, the chance of a victory gets smaller and smaller.
TT: Anderson and guards Hanlan and Rahon are really the only Eagles who have scored. Is there any depth on this roster that is likely to make a significant difference in the game?
BCI: As I mentioned above, guys that were solid contributors last season have fallen off a bit so far this year. Lonnie Jackson missed the first three games of the year with a hamstring injury and really hasn’t found his 2012-13 form quite yet. So far this season, he’s only scored in double figures once this year (10 points vs. Washington).
Other than Jackson, I think you’ve got to look to Notre Dame G/F transfer Alex Dragicevich and wing Patrick Heckmann to carry the rest of the Eagles’ offensive production. Neither has really been able to get much of anything going so far. Heckmann, in particular, has seen decreased PT over the past few games and has just 5 points (all in the OT win vs. Sacred Heart) over his last five games.
Two newcomers to keep an eye on are the aforementioned Will Magarity and freshman forward Garland Owens (a local Gaithersburg, Md. product). Owens has shown flashes of athleticism and had a breakout game against Toledo (12 points) but has been a bit quiet since that game.
TT: Your prediction?
BCI: Man, this game seems near impossible to predict. It’s also one that seems critically important for Donahue’s tenure as coach on the Heights. Lose here, and I really think Boston College will be looking for a new coach at the end of the season. Win and perhaps the Don buys some time to right what has been a sinking ship through the first nine games of the season.
It’s funny, because as you predicted a close BC win over at BC Interruption, I’ve got to go the other way and predict a close Terps win. I guess that’s what happens when you have a matchup of two of the country’s most disappointing teams in the early going. Vegas says Maryland by 1.5, but BC is coming off back-to-back road games where they were 1-point dogs and proceeded to get run out of the gym in the second half (Purdue -1, USC -1)
I want to believe in Donahue and predict that BC rebounds here. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Maryland 80, Boston College 69.