Measuring Stick

Boston College's ACC season opened with a bang as the unranked Eagles knocked off previously unbeaten North Carolina at the Dean Dome, 85-78. This was the second time Boston College beat a #1 ranked Carolina team. The previous time it was in the 1994 NCAA tournament. The win is the tenth in a row or the young BC team and what could be a great measuring stick for this team.

When a young team goes on the road to play a top-rated team, the results are usually predictable. The veteran team not only wins, but they win big. There are, however, periods in the game when the young team executes and plays up to their potential. It is those periods in the game when the game is more than just a game. It is a measuring stick. Those periods offer a glimpse of what the young guys can be once they develop as a team.

Last night, the Boston College basketball team managed to make an entire game a measuring stick. They also knocked off the number one team in the country - on their floor. Even better, that team is the best team in the ACC. The 85-78 victory over previously unbeaten North Carolina stands as the biggest upset of the season so far.

The win is great and should give BC fans a boost. Not a lot was expected of this year's team. Even the most optimistic of fans figured this team would struggle to win eight league games this year. With a little luck, they could make the tournament, assuming they won a game in the conference tournament. That may still be the case, but they did show what kind of team they can be this year, good and bad.

What We Learned

BC has a very athletic team. Unlike any team in the Skinner era, this group is quick at just about ever spot. Rice, Jackson, Sanders, Raji and Paris are as quick as anyone in the ACC. The inexperience of the young guys has often negated this, but when they play smart they can run with anyone in the ACC. Against UNC, they regularly beat them on the transition, getting down for easy buckets while the Tar Heels were struggling to get back on defense.

This quickness had the greatest impact on defense. BC held Carolina to 28-of-73 from the field and only allowed 7-of-22 three's. This was not just a bad shooting night for UNC. The Eagle's athleticism allowed them to press the ball and get out on defense. They were also able to get into the passing lanes, forcing 15 turnovers.

Josh Southern has become a very good defender. Southern was asked to man-up on Tyler Hansbrough, often left alone to defend him in the paint. For most of the night, Southern was able to use his big body to frustrate the best player in the country. Hansbrough is not a guy looking to kick it out. Consequently, he was not able to take over the game with easy shots around the basket.

The result was BC did not have to bring a double and could get out on the perimeter guys. Hansbrough got his points eventually, but that was mostly from the line late in the game. Having a big man that can take away the other guy's post man will allow this team to play with anyone in the ACC.

The transition defense needs work. As noted above, this team can run with anyone. The trouble is they tend to fall asleep in transition. More than a few times UNC was able to turn a BC score into a quick trip down the court for an easy bucket. Maybe the BC kids were admiring their work too much, but it has been a trend all season.

The post is skinny. Other than Southern, BC has no one that can be a credible presence in the paint. Raji and Trapani try hard and are willing to get their nose bloody fighting inside, but that's not their game. The only other option is Dunn and he is still a year away from giving the team significant minutes. For now, he can spell Southern for ten minutes a game, but remains a risk on the floor.

Inexplicably, UNC did not go after this obvious weakness. Instead they chose to run with BC and that allowed BC to play to their strength. Incredibly, Dunn was able to log fifteen minutes against one of the best front lines in the country. Down the road, other teams will not be so foolish.

The Fallout

Whatever the lessons gleaned from this game, the fact is it is a huge win for the program. It is also a huge win for a team that may be on the bubble come March. Looking down the schedule, there are only four games that look like long shots. Beyond UNC, Duke, Wake and Clemson, the ACC is wide open this year. That means there is room for another three teams to get a tournament bid.

BC has a couple of solid wins in November and December. None are as big as this one. Not only will this help in the RPI, it takes a sure loss and puts it in the win column. Come March, that one win could decide a tournament bid. That win coming on the road against the number one team in the country will help too.

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