The visitors from Boston are a frontcourt-heavy team in more ways than one. Craig Smith (6-7, 255), Uka Agbai (6-8, 265) and Jared Dudley (6-7, 210)are all big bodies who combine to put up the bulk of the Eagles's offensive production.
Smith, a sophomore, is averaging 18.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, and has seven double-doubles this year. He's a dominating low post presence who uses his body to great effect.
Agbai contributes 11.3 points and 4.6 boards per game, and is poised to take over interior work when Smith gets double team attention, while freshman Dudley (12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game) has also benefitted from the attention shown to the veterans in the Eagle frontcourt.
As if that's not enough, the Eagles can bring seven-foot backup Nate Doornekamp (7-0, 265) off the bench to increase their height and size advantage. He tosses in 3.1 rebounds per game and has blocked 13 shots, the second-highest total on the team.
An all-freshman backcourt of Steve Hailey (6-0, 170) and Sean Marshall (6-5, 205) has provided respectable, if unspectacular play. Hailey averages five points and 3.5 assists per game, while Marshall is the team's only significant three-point threat, averaging 9.7 points per game while hitting 35.4 percent from downtown.
Top subs off the bench include Louis Hinnant (6-4, 190) who has missed the last two games due to injury, and Jermaine Watson (6-3, 205) who averages 6.1 points and 2.5 rebounds per contest.
Without Hinnant, the Eagles are likely to go with a short bench, but that won't be something the Mountaineers can exploit, as they could be missing two players in today's contest.
A classic battle of size and strength versus finesse and quickness will be played out in the lane as Fischer and Smith match up.
|Sat 1/24 4:00 p.m.|
WVU 9-6, 1-3
BC 13-4, 2-2
WVU - 86
BC - 16
|Margin: BC +3|
Fischer will also have to make Smith earn his shots. The big Eagle forward got a number of uncontested looks from inside five feet against WVU last year, and those have to be prevented if the Mountaineers are going to make a game of it. Fischer can't be expected to close off those shots completely, but he does have to contest them and make Smith shoot over or around him and increase the difficulty factor of his tries.
On the offensive end, Fischer must be more aggressive. He has a height advantage over his Eagle opponent, and needs to use it to force Smith to work on the defensive end. Last year, Smith had pretty much of a free pass on defense, which let him expend even more energy when he had the ball on the other end of the floor.
BC: Louis Hinnant (Ankle) Questionable
It's another tough task for WVU in the paint, made even tougher by the absence of Jerrah Young, who, while not piling up big numbers, has helped on the defensive end of the floor. With both Kevin Pittsnogle and Fischer expected to start agin, it will be imperative for the Mountianeers to stay out of foul trouble. If either of those two have problems, West Virginia will again have to resort to playing Joe Herber at the four position, which is an obvious mismatch. While Herber battles and gives it everything he's got, its unfair to expect him to contain post players who are several inches taller and fifty pounds heavier.
What type of defense will WVU use to battle the inside-dominated Beantowners? A 2-3 is the obvious choice, but that has proved to be one of WVU's worst defenses this year. BC might not possess the passing ability to dissect the 1-3-1 the way Providence did, but allowing both blocks to be open is an invitation for Smith to set up low and dominate the offensive glass. If the 1-3-1 doesn't work, WVU may be forced into man to man, which would be an obvious advantage for the post-up skills of the Eagles.
The one advantage the Mountaineers hold is on the perimeter. WVU shoots from three point range more frequently, and more effectively, than BC. Look for the Mountaineers to go on the firing range early to try to loosen up the Eagle strnaglehold on the lane and force the big bodies inside to defend on the perimeter. Unfortunately for WVU, Boston College isn't Marshall. If West Virginia shoots 4-18 from three-point range as they did against the Herd, there's not much chance of winning the game.
Despite beating Marshall, West Virgina's RPI dropped six spots.
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Boston College is shooting just 33.7% from three-point range, but counters that with a 46.5% overall shooting mark from the field. The Eagles work the ball patiently and get a number of close range shots from their excellent front line.
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Putting the Eagles on the free throw line might not be a bad option, if WVU had the bodies to do so. BC is averaging just 67.1% from the line, with inside power player Craig Smith hitting just 56% of his chances.
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BC is 3-0 in overtime games this season after edging NC State in their last game. WVU is 2-0, with back to back extra session wins over Maryland and Duquesne.