Basketball Preview: Virginia Tech at BC

, TechSideline.com, on January 13, 2012
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Teams don’t get much younger than the one Virginia Tech will face on Saturday. Boston College has a roster filled with nine freshmen, four of which are starters, and that’s the main reason the Eagles have struggled this year. They are 6-10, though they did pick up an ACC win over Clemson on Thursday night.

For Virginia Tech, this is a big game. They have to win this game, otherwise they are likely to start 0-5 in ACC play, with upcoming games at home against UNC and at Virginia. There can’t be any excuses this time around. Tech has a young team, but they are nowhere near as young as Boston College, and they’ve played much better basketball over the course of the season.

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That’s an incredible amount of youth for a starting lineup, particularly an ACC starting lineup. Their backups are just as young: Patrick Heckmann (6-5, 196, Fr.), K.C. Caudill (6-10, 279, Fr.), Eddie Odio (6-7, 195, Fr.), Gabe Moton (6-1, 177, So.) and Danny Rubin (6-5, 181, So.) are all extremely inexperienced. The Eagles have started 10 different players this year, so sometimes it’s hard to say exactly who Steve Donahue might trot out on the court at the beginning of the game.

The Eagles are 6-9 following last night’s home 59-57 win over Clemson. That represented BC’s first win since December 21. Wins have been few and far between: New Hampshire (67-64), UC-Riverside (66-62 OT), Stony Brook (66-51), Bryant (75-55) and Sacred Heart (83-73) were the other BC victories. At #174, Stony Brooks is the highest rated team the Eagles have beaten this year, as Clemson checks in at just #192.
Meanwhile, BC’s losses have piled up: Holy Cross (86-64), UMass (82-46), Saint Louis (62-51), New Mexico (75-57), Penn State (62-54), Boston U (75-61), Providence (64-57), Harvard (67-46), Rhode Island (78-72) and UNC (83-60). The Rhode Island loss was particularly humbling, as the Rams had won just two games before defeating the Eagles.

Freshman guard Patrick Heckmann leads BC in scoring, averaging 10.5 points per game. He is the only player on the team who averages double figures. Heckmann, from Mainz, Germany, is a good shooter and has good size, and he headlines what appears to be a pretty solid Boston College freshman class.

However, they are still freshmen. You simply can’t rely on a team full of freshmen in major college basketball, and it has shown up in BC’s win-loss record. In fact, the Eagles rank at or near the bottom of the ACC in nearly every major statistical category.

Scoring Offense: 12th
Scoring Defense: 8th
Scoring Margin: 12th
FT%: 9th
FG%: 12th
FG% Def: 9th
3Pt.FG%: 8th
3Pt.FG% Def: 9th
Rebounding Margin: 12th
Turnover Margin: 11th

It doesn’t get much worse than those numbers. The Eagles can’t rebound, and they turn the ball over entirely too much, which means opponents get numerous extra possessions.
The Eagles are a well-coached team under Steve Donahue, and two wins over Virginia Tech last season arguably kept the Hokies out of the NCAA Tournament. BC beat Tech 58-56 in Boston, and 76-61 in Blacksburg. In fact, Tech has lost four of their last five meetings with the Eagles.

Nevertheless, this is a good matchup for the Hokies, because of BC’s youth. The Eagles have not played well this season, and even last night’s when over Clemson was more of a case of the Tigers playing poorly. If Virginia Tech plays a decent basketball game tomorrow, they should win with relative ease.

Don’t expect a great crowd in the Conte Forum. The Boston College men’s hockey team is playing Northeastern in Fenway Park at 4pm, and the hockey team averages 6,400 fans per game. With the basketball team averages just over 4,300 fans per game. With both teams playing at the same time, many BC fans will elect to watch their hockey team play in Fenway Park.

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