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Previewing the Boston College Eagles

For 13 years Al Skinner was at Boston College, and with him we knew what to expect: his flex offense was going to be solid (despite his feeling that the 3-pointer was nothing more than a fad), and his defense was going to suspect. He had a nice run while BC was still in the Big East, but after their transition to the ACC he was 40-40 in conference. So out goes Skinner, and in comes Steve Donahue. Donahue had been a fixture at Cornell where he made the NCAA Tourney in his final three seasons. Now he brings his hybrid dribble-drive/Princeton offense to the big time, and so far the results have been pretty good.

The Eagles come to Tallahassee 4-1 in conference, tied with Duke and FSU. Since Duke plays Wake Forest today, this is a one-game playoff to see who’s fans can continue to pretend like they have a shot at winning the ACC. BC is outscoring ACC opponents by .08 per possession vs. FSU’s rate of .04 per possession, though the Eagles have done it against a softer schedule. Prior to league play they had a good win over Texas A&M and several decent wins (Cal, Indiana, Providence, USCe), with losses to Wisconsin, Harvard, Yale and Rhode Island. The Yale loss will haunt them on Selection Sunday.

The Eagles offense begins with G Reggie Jackson. Credit Al Skinner for pulling this lightly recruited kid out of Colorado who’s now on his way to 1st team All-ACC as a junior. Jackson, 2nd in the ACC at 19.4 PPG, can score from anywhere. He’s a rare small guard who shoots over 50% on 2’s, plus he’s converted a remarkable 47% of his 3’s and lead the team with 87 trips to line where he shoots over 80%. He’s scored in double figures in every game this season but one.

The rest of the BC offense comes from four familiar seniors in F Corey Raji, F Joe Trapani, G Biko Paris and C Josh Southern. Raji (who Skinner vastly undervalued) has suddenly added the 3-pointer to his resume as he’s attempted more this season (56) than his first three years combined, and he converts at a 38% rate. The 6’8" Trapani and 6’10" Southern provide the only real inside presence for the team, and Biko Paris is Reggie Jackson’s running mate who gets the ball when Reggie doesn’t want it. The entire team can shoot the three ball and over 36% of their points come from beyond the arc (17th in the country) compared to 22% last year under Skinner (289th).

Beyond those five, the Eagles really only have three more players that are seeing significant minutes – junior Dallas Elmore and freshmen Gabriel Moton and Danny Rubin (who will start, with Raji as the 6th man). Neither Moton nor Rubin had interest from high-major programs, but both were brought in due to Steve Donahue’s familiarity while recruiting for Cornell. One thing about mid-major players is that they can all shoot, and Rubin particularly is a guy you can’t leave open as he’s converting 46% of his 3’s.

Pomeroy has FSU -6, and Vegas opened at a more bullish -7.5. The game tips at 7pm on ESPNU.