Chesnut Hill, Mass. - Conte Forum
9 p.m., TV - ESPN
Season to Date: Boston College was picked in the preseason to finish among the top teams in the ACC, but there were doubts after three puzzling non-conference losses to Vermont and Providence in November and then to Duquesne the following month. Then after a great start in the ACC, the doubts returned again when starting center Sean Williams (averaging 5.0 blocks per game) was kicked off the team. Yet the Eagles had an ACC-best 8-2 conference record heading into Wednesday's home game against Duke. Despite the importance of the game, BC was outhustled and outsmarted by a struggling Blue Devil team that spread the floor and picked them apart, leading by as many as 24 points in the second half before a late rally. The Eagles shot 53% for the game, yet committed 19 turnovers, while leading scorer Jared Dudley spent more time complaining to the referees than looking to score -- he attempted only five field goals.
The Star: With two weeks left in the conference season, Jared Dudley is the leading candidate for ACC Player of the Year. He leads the league in scoring (19.6 pts), rebounding (8.8 reb) and is third in field goal percentage (59.3%), while also averaging an ACC-high 38.4 minutes per game. He can score from anywhere on the floor (shooting 50% on three-point attempts), is tough to keep off the boards and is the team's clear emotional leader as well.
Matchup Problems: While the Eagles don't have elite talent at every position, they create challenges for man-to-man defenses. The aforementioned Dudley is extremely difficult to guard, and so is sophomore point guard Tyrese Rice, who has vastly improved this season. Rice is exceptionally fast off the dribble and also has one of the quickest jump-shot releases. In addition, Sean Marshall stands 6-6 at two guard and can play inside and get hot from beyond the arc - he's the team's wildcard.
Local Excitement: As Tar Heel fans in the Boston area already know, there is no tougher ACC ticket this season than this game in Chesnut Hill. With only 8,606 seats in the Conte Forum and UNC traveling to BC for the first time ever, the pro sports town is excited for a taste of primetime, big-time college hoops - it's become a local celebrity event. Tickets for the game never went on sale to the public and brokers are asking for a minimum of $400 per seat for lower level tickets. In addition, ESPN's GameDay show will air live from the arena on Saturday morning.
Series History: This will be the sixth-ever meeting between North Carolina and Boston College. The first three meetings were in the NCAA Tournament in 1967 (UNC won), 1975 (UNC won) and 1994 (BC won). Last season the Eagles won the matchup in Chapel Hill, 81-74, and the semifinal game in the ACC Tournament, 85-82. Tyler Hansbrough averaged 24.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in those two games last year.
Projected Starters: 4 Tyrese Rice (6-1, 190, So.) – 17.1 ppg, 5.8 apg 23 Sean Marshall (6-6, 212, Sr.) – 15.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg 3 Jared Dudley (6-7, 225, Sr.) - 19.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg 34 Shamari Spears (6-6, 245, Fr.) – 8.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg 32 John Oates (6-10, 255, Jr.) – 4.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg Key Reserves: 00 Marquez Haynes (6-3, 185, So.) – 4.5 ppg, 2.0 apg 44 Tyrelle Blair (6-11, 240, Jr.) – 2.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.0 bpg
Dudley ....... Rice
Oates ....... Marshall
Blair ....... Spears
(Photos courtesy AP