Justin Anderson and the Hoos celebrated Thursday, but they need to refocus for a trip to Boston College.
The Virginia men’s basketball team won its 16th straight home game against Duke on Thursday to remain undefeated in ACC play at the John Paul Jones Arena. Now, however, the Hoos head back to the conference road where they are 2-5 to take on Boston College.
Here are 10 things to consider before the match-up Sunday afternoon at the Conte Forum.
1. Since losing 65-51 to UVa at the JPJ, Boston College has gone 3-6: 3-2 at home and 0-4 on the road. The 3 home wins were against Clemson (75-68), Wake Forest (66-63), and Maryland (69-58). One of the home losses was an 82-70 defeat at the hands of UNC, which stands as an aberration for BC this season. Every other ACC home game that BC has played has been competitive with the Eagles dropping nail-biters to NC State (78-73), Miami (60-59), and, most recently, Duke (62-61). Simply put, the Eagles are a tough out at home.
2. In my first Boston College Primer, I noted how I really liked the potential of the Eagles’ freshman point guard, Olivier Hanlan . It’s no longer about potential. After scoring 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting against Virginia, the frosh has averaged 15.79 points per game in his next 9 games on 47.6% shooting (compared to 42.7% on the season). Hanlan is second among Boston College players in points per game, first on the team in steals per game (1.2), and a serious contender for ACC freshman of the year.
3. While Hanlan really has picked up his game of late, BC’s other freshman guard, Joe Rahon, has hit the freshman wall hard. Rahon had a nice game against UVa, recording 10 points on 3-6 shooting and notching 4 assists against only 1 turnover. But in his last 7 games, here are his shooting percentages: 0%, 25%, 33.3%, 37.5%, 18.2%, 20%, and 28.6%. At this point, Rahon is starting simply because Steve Donahue doesn’t have any alternatives on the bench.
4. Ryan Anderson has played great all year for this squad, but being the one big in BC’s four-guard lineup seems to be taking its toll on the sophomore. When Boston College strolled into Charlottesville, Anderson sported 50% accuracy from the field, a mark he didn’t hit in going 5-14 (35.7%) against the Cavaliers. Thereafter, however, Anderson shot at or near 50% in his next 4 games, which included encounters against Miami, Duke, and UNC. But look at how the big man has shot in his last 5 games: 5-13 (38.5%) against Wake, 4-13 (30.8%) against Florida State, 1-4 (25%) against Maryland, 8-13 (61.5%) against Duke, and 4-10 (40%) against NC State. Moreover, in his last 3 games, Anderson has averaged a mere 4 rebounds a game and turned it over 9 times against only 3 assists.
5. Interestingly, however, Anderson’s drop in efficiency actually has coincided with increased minutes for sophomore center Dennis Clifford. A number of injuries have slowed the big man during his second year, and he only saw the floor for 9 minutes against Virginia and was clearly laboring. In the ensuing 3 games, Clifford played only 11 minutes combined, but the big man actually has started the last 6 games for the Eagles, though he’s only played an average of 11.8 minutes per game in those games. Clifford is not scoring much when he’s on the floor – a total of 14 points in the last 6 games – but he does do a decent job of anchoring the defense when he’s in the line-up.
6. Conversely, when Clifford is not in the line-up, UVa might see big things from Justin Anderson . Two of Anderson’s best games against this year have come against teams – Boston College and Maryland – that have gone small against the Hoos. In the first BC game, Anderson scored 16 points on 7-9 shooting, and he went off for 17 points and 9 rebounds against the Terps. When Anderson is matched up against Patrick Heckmann or Eddie Odio, look for him to take it to the hole with authority.
7. Virginia might actually end up seeing Odio in the game for a good spell. In the first meeting, the swingman missed all three of his field goal attempts and failed to register a point for his second straight game. Since then, the sophomore has averaged more than 6 points a game on 50% shooting from the floor. The only thing that might limit Odio’s minutes is his propensity to foul. The first UVa game was the first of 4 straight games in which Odio was tagged for 4 fouls, and he also has fouled out in 2 subsequent games.
Akil Mitchell played well against BC in the first meeting.
8. When Odio or another undersized player is at the “4” for BC, he might be matched up against Anderson, or he might have to face off against Akil Mitchell if he’s in the game next to Mike Tobey and/or Darion Atkins . This would spell trouble for the Eagles. In the first BC game, with Tobey tallying 18 minutes, Mitchell was able to score 16 points on 6-10 shooting in his 34 minutes of play. If Ryan Anderson is forced to cover one of UVa’s other posts, there’s simply nobody else in the BC roster that can slow down Mitchell.
9. Odio’s minutes seemingly have come at the expense of junior swingman Danny Rubin. Rubin saw 19 minutes of action against Virginia and scored 6 points by hitting 2 of his 3 3-point attempts. In his last 6 games, however, Rubin has played a combined 35 minutes and scored a total of 4 points. I wouldn’t expect to see much of him on Sunday.
10. In the first meeting, the Cavaliers only shot 2-9 (22.2%) from 3-point range, well below their season average of 40%. Considering that Boston College is No. 331 nationally in opponent 3-point field goal percentage (38.4%), I would expect that Virginia connects on a significantly higher percentage of its triples on Sunday.
Prediction: After beating Duke at home, Maryland went up to Chestnut Hill three days later and came away with a 69-58 loss to Boston College, putting a serious dent in its at-large hopes for the NCAA Tournament. Will the same fate befall the Hoos? I don’t think so.
504-C Brandon has this one as a 63.2-57 Virginia victory, with the Wahoos having a 68.8% chance of winning. That sounds about right to me. I think that the game will be a tightly contested affair, but coach Tony Bennett and the troops know what’s at stake and that a loss will undo a lot of the goodwill earned from the home win over Duke. I will pick the Cavaliers to take this one, 64-59.