Virginia Tech returns to Cassell Coliseum tonight for the first time since December 15, and they are hoping to get back on the right track by defeating Boston College. The Hokies have been in a big slump recently, their defense is non-existent, and they appear to be suffering from confidence issues. BC represents a good opportunity to right the ship.
The Eagles are 8-6 on the season, with an 0-1 mark in the ACC. They came close to upsetting NC State this past weekend, but on the whole, they haven’t been good this season. Boston College has home losses to Bryant University and Harvard, though they had won five straight games before their loss to NC State. This is a young team and it doesn’t have a lot of depth.
Meanwhile, the Hokies are struggling. They’ve been blown out in three straight games, they aren’t contesting shots, they’ve struggled on the boards, and they aren’t making their own open jumpers. Perhaps the friendly confines of Cassell Coliseum is exactly what they need right now.
The coach: Steve Donahue is in his third season at Boston College, and he’s trying to revamp the program around his own Princeton style of offense. He was the head coach at Cornell before making the jump to BC. He led Cornell to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments before taking the BC job, including a 29-5 record and a Sweet 16 berth in 2010.
Steve Donahue only used seven players in the rotation against NC State, and one of those guys only played seven minutes. This is not a deep team at all, so Tech’s usual depth problem won’t be an excuse tonight.
G Joe Rahon (6-2, 195, Fr.): Rahon averages 11.8 points per game, and the freshman leads the team with 57 assists. Like everyone else who plays for BC, he’s a solid three-point shooter (35.4%).
G Lonnie Jackson (6-3, 180, So.): Jackson starts at guard for BC, and he’s actually one of their most veteran players. Averaging 8.2 points per game, Jackson is 34.1% from three-point range.
G Olivier Hanlan (6-4, 188, Fr.): Hanlan is another young member of BC’s backcourt. He averages 12.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. He will likely draw the assignment of defending Jarell Eddie in this game.
G Patrick Heckmann (6-5, 205, So.): As a sophomore, Heckmann is also a veteran, relatively speaking. The native of Germany averages 9.1 points per game. He will be at a major disadvantage in size. Assuming C.J. Barksdale does play for the Hokies tonight, he should have an opportunity to score points. However, he’s going to have to play very hard defensively to stay with Heckmann on the perimeter.
C Ryan Anderson (6-8, 220, So.): Anderson is a monster on the inside for Boston College. He’s tough, and he’s very aggressive on the boards. Anderson averages 16.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, and he had 22 points and 13 boards against NC State. Cadarian Raines and Joey van Zegeren are going to have to be tough and physical against Anderson.
C Dennis Clifford (7-0, 250, So.): Clifford played 24 minutes against NC State, and he has great size on the inside.
F Eddie Odio (6-7, 205, So.): Odio played seven minutes against NC State on Saturday, and he’s the final member of BC’s playing rotation.
Boston College has attempted exactly 300 three-pointers this season, and they’ve made exaclty 100 of them. This is a team that lives and dies by the outside jumper. Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, the Hokies have really struggled with their perimeter defense recently.
Look for BC to try and get the ball inside to Ryan Anderson, who is very capable of kicking it out to open shooters. The Eagles will try to run their offense inside-out.
Getting Back on the Right Track
Virginia Tech needs to win a basketball game. They’ve been on the receiving end of three consecutive blowouts by three very good, well-coached teams in Colorado State, BYU and Maryland. Before that, the struggled to beat Bradley in overtime, they got upset by Georgia Southern, and they struggled to beat Mississippi Valley State at home.
Right now, this is not a good basketball team. The Hokies haven’t been a great defensive team all season, but things are getting worse right now. The players are missing shots and not executing on offense, and it’s most certainly affecting them on the defensive end. They can’t let that happen against BC, because the Eagles are a disciplined, well-coached team that has the potential to get hot from the outside.
However, Boston College is very young. Their lineup is composed entirely of freshmen and sophomores, and they have the same depth problems as the Hokies. Those issues won’t be excuses for Tech tonight, because they’ll be facing a team that has the same problems.
I think playing at home will help Tech. The Hokies few to Las Vegas for two games before Christmas, flew backto Blacksburg for Christmas, and then flew cross country again for a game at BYU. They then started the ACC schedule on the road at Maryland. Perhaps a home game in their own arena is exactly what they need.
This is a game the Hokies need to win. They are playing a very young 8-6 team at home, and you have to hold serve at home against teams like this if you want to be competitive in the ACC.