B.C. is off to a smoking 13-0 start, including an impressive 75-50 win at Connecticut. The Eagles, unlike many recent WVU foes, feature a conventional two guard, two forward, one center lineup.
The feature of the front line is bulky forward Craig Smith (6-7, 250 lbs.) He averages 19.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, using his big frame to operate from a position of strength on the low blocks. Smith's presence clears the lane for Jared Dudley (6-7, 220 lbs.) who can also score down low but also is comfortable with putting the ball on the floor and getting to the hoop, as his 14.1 points per game average attests. They form a perfect complementary pair that are difficult to deal with inside. Senior center Nate Doornekamp (7-0, 260 lbs.) doesn't appear to be an offensive threat, but looks, in this case, are deceiving. With attention focused on Smith and Dudley, he always seems to find a way to scoop up a key offensive rebound for a hoop or two. He averages 5.5 points, and more importantly, 5.6 rebounds per game.
On the perimeter, Sean Marshall (6-6, 210 lbs.) handles much of the scoring load, and is far and away the team's leading three-point shooter. He averages 12.8 points per game, and shoots 38.8% from beyond the arc, best on the team. Steady Louis Hinnant (6-4, 190 lbs.) runs the offense, which concentrates on getting the ball inside first. He's not much of a scorer, carrying a 5.4 points per game average, but his 50-20 assist to turnover ratio show he's getting the job done well at the point.
Just like the starters, B.C.'s best subs are in the frontcourt. Freshman Sean Williams (6-10, 230 lbs.) averages 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds off the bench, and gives the Eagles a longer, more athletic style off the bench. Fellow freshman Akida McClain (6-7, 215 lbs.) contributes 5.0 points and 3.0 rebounds while averaging just 10 minutes per game.
Several guards also get appreciable playing time in Coach Al Skinner's nine-man rotation. Jermaine Watson (6-3, 205 lbs.) tallies 10.3 points per game off the bench, while sophomore Steve Hailey spells Hinnant at the point, averaging better than 3.5 assists per outing.
West Virginia forward Tyrone Sally vs. Fatigue? Confidence?
Sally has struggled in recent games, and the Mountaineers need their go-to senior to become more aggressive, especially early in the contest.
WVU 12-2, 1-1
BC 13-0, 2-0
WVU - 64
BC - 5
Of late, however, Sally has appeared tentative on the wing. Drives to the basket have been few and far between. And even when he does put the ball on the floor, he has been having trouble keeping control of the rock. In the last three games, Sally is 11-30 from the field with eight turnovers.
Head coach John Beilein, while noting that Sally contributes in many ways, puts at least part of the blame on fatigue. In addition to his other duties, Sally has been asked to pound the boards even harder than before, and that task, compounded by WVU's hectic travel schedule of late, may have worn the willowy senior down.
Whatever the cause, Sally and WVU must find a cure, and quickly. West Virginia will be hard pressed to win in the Big East without Sally putting up his normal scoring numbers.
WVU: J.D. Collins (Ankle) Will Play
The beauty of college basketball lies in its unpredictability. Looking at WVU's play in its previous three games, there wouldn't appear to be much chance for the Mountaineers against an undefeated Eagle team. However, as the warnings read in commercials for investment firms, "past performance does not indicate future results".
With that in mind, West Virginia might be in a bit better shape for this game than what many observers might think. Although BC's inside game will be tough for the Mountaineers to slow (picture Craig Smith simply posting and moving from low block to low block against WVU's 1-3-1), the Eagles may likewise have trouble matching up against West Virginia's midrange and long range shooting. Of course, that assumes that WVU won't have a repeat of Tuesday's 3-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc, but there are simply too many good shooters on the squad for that to occur, aren't there?
Not only do the Mountaineers have to shoot better from longer range, but they also need to take the shots they get from 10-15 feet away. Over the last few games, WVU has gotten away from taking those shots, and in the process missed some good scoring opportunities. While the three-pointer will always be part of the Mountaineer attack, they can't afford to pass up scoring opportunities from any distance.
On defense, West Virginia must avoid giving up conventional three-point plays against the Eagles' strong front line. B.C. is going to get the ball inside and convert scoring chances, but WVU must not let those turn into three points instead of two. Fouls, if committed, must be hard enough to keep the ball from getting to the rim.
B.C.'s 13-0 start is the best in school history. The 13-game winning streak is also the third-longest winning streak in school history trailing the 1968-69 team (19 straight) and the 1964-65 team (14 straight). Two of B.C.'s wins this season came in overtime, against Holy Cross and Yale.
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You often see players ranked highly in more than one statistical category, but is there any odder combination than D'or Fischer's national status in blocked shots and free throw percentage? You might see post players in the top twenty in both scoring and rebounding, or a guard in free throw percentage and assists, but Fischer's combination is definitely unusual. The senior center is 11th in the nation in free throw percentage (89.1%) and 12th in blocked shots (2.92) per game.
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Mike Gansey leads the Mountaineers in assists (50), steals (24), rebounds (86), offensive rebounds (29) and minutes per game (31.4). Unfortunately, this pace may be wearing out the slender, undersized forward. Gansey appeared tired and sluggish in West Virginia's game against Marshall, and the road is only going to get tougher and more physical from here.
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Who has the best Big East road record over the last five seasons? Well, since this item is included here, you probably guessed it's Boston College. The Eagles have a 20-13 mark away from the Conte Forum since the start of the 2000-01 season. To underscore the difficulty of that feat, only Notre Dame, which trails the Eagles by one game with a 19-14 road mark, has a winning road record over the same timeframe.
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WVU's recent shooting woes have dropped Kevin Pittsnogle and Patrick Beilein down on West Virginia's all-time three-point accuracy list. Chris Leonard's career mark of 41.7% from downtown puts him ahead of Pittsnogle's 40.7% and Beilein's 39.0% rate.