In advance of Wednesday night’s ACC tournament first-round game between Georgia Tech and Boston College, 7 p.m. on ESPN2 nationally and ACC Network in the ACC region (WATL in the Atlanta market).
1. Boston College may look slightly different than the last meeting. In the final two games of the regular season, coach Steve Donahue started center K.C. Caudill for just the third and fourth times this season and moved Ryan Anderson from center to power forward. Coach Brian Gregory said that the move “makes them efficient offensively and a little better defensively, as well.” Previously, Anderson played away from the basket, which took center Daniel Miller out of the paint, limiting his ability to rebound and defend the rim. He had a total of four rebounds and two blocks in the two games. As a more traditional center, Caudill could play closer to the basket, which would bring Miller back to the middle.
Regardless, the Eagles’ game is to dribble-drive and either go to the basket or kick the ball out for a 3-pointer. Boston College attempted 21.4 3-pointers per game in ACC play this year, third most behind Duke (24.4) and Maryland (22). The Eagles made 38.4 percent of the shots, third highest in the league.
“They’re different because so many guys on the court can shoot it,” guard Trae Golden said. “I think that with some guys, you can kind of, on different teams, play off, play them for the drive. But Boston College, each guy is a potential threat to shoot the ball.”
According to kenpom.com, Boston College has the 26th most efficient offense but is No. 300 in defensive efficiency. It is the widest such discrepancy of any team in the ACC and one of the largest in Division I. Tech’s two best field-goal percentage games in ACC play this season were the two against Boston College, 52.1 percent (first game) and 53.8 percent (second).
2. Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan’s 41-point wreckage of Tech in last year’s first-round tournament game was not his only time taking aim at the Jackets. Hanlan has been uncommonly accurate against Tech, making 69.2 percent of his field-goal attempts (36-for-52) and 72.2 percent of his 3-pointers (13-for-18) in five games against the Jackets. In his career, he is a 43.6 percent shooter from the field and 34.3 percent from 3-point range against everyone other than Tech.
In the tournament game, “we could not guard Hanlan,” Gregory said. “We could have brought a football 4-3 defense out there, he still would have scored 40 that night.”
In the last meeting, Hanlan scored what would have been the game-winning basket on a jump shot with three seconds left but for Marcus Georges-Hunt’s game-winning 3-pointer with less than a second to play.
In defending Hanlan, Gregory said, “you can’t give up any easy baskets. You can’t give up any layups in transition, you can’t give up any open 3’s where you screw up a coverage. You’ve got to make him earn everything. Now, he’s good enough to earn it and still score a good number of points, but that’s the key.”
3. Particularly in the first game, Boston College gave Tech issues with its zone defense, which proved to be a common occurrence during the season. It is noteworthy, then, that Tech won its two final games of the regular season (against Syracuse and Virginia Tech) against teams that played the Jackets with different styles of 2-3 zone defenses.
“I think a little bit is Robert (Carter returning to the lineup),” Gregory said. “I think we’re a little more comfortable against it, kind of understanding, a little more patient, understanding what we’re trying to get out of it.”
Carter and center Daniel Miller were particularly effective working together against the Orange and Hokies. They scored a combined 57 points with 11 assists and shot 65 percent from the field in the two games. Both are excellent passers, and one thing Carter did while he was out recovering from his knee injury was to see the design of the offense’s plays, and where they opened up gaps in the defense.
“It helped me see a lot more, see things on the basketball court from, I would say, a coach’s point of view, seeing the opposition, see what they see, what they wanted to run, things like that,” he said.
It was entirely not the worst thing for Carter to watch from the bench, something Gregory and assistant coach Billy Schmidt anticipated.
“They just told me, once I got hurt, that I would see it differently,” he said. “They were saying, ‘When you sit, you will see a lot of things we talk about during games. You’ll see we’re not as crazy as you thought we were.’”
4. With the expansion to 15 teams, this year’s tournament will be the first that starts on Wednesday and the first in which top four seeds will receive double byes. In the Big East, which had a similar format the last five years, the double bye largely proved advantageous. The most notable exception happened in 2011, when No. 9 seed Connecticut beat No. 16 seed DePaul, No. 8 seed Georgetown, No. 3 seed Pittsburgh, No. 4 seed Syracuse and No. 3 seed Louisville in the championship game to win five games in five days en route to the national championship. (Before Tech fans get their hopes up, they might note that Connecticut was 21-9 and ranked No. 21 when the tournament began.)
“If all things work out, we’re playing our third game against a team who hasn’t played yet,” Gregory said. “You’ve seen in the Big East, teams have gotten on a roll and been able to use that momentum. I still say it’s always an advantage if you’ve won a game and you’re playing against a team who hasn’t played. I think there is a slight advantage for that team. Because, one, you’re already feeling good about yourself because you just came off a win, you’ve played in the gym before, you’ve kind of faced the fear of a one-and-done situation already.”
5. On that topic, Tech has lost in the opening round each of the past three seasons. None of the games were close – 59-43 to Virginia Tech in 2011 in what proved to be coach Paul Hewitt’s final game, 54-36 to Miami in 2012 in what was Tech’s lowest-scoring game since February 1961 and the lowest output in an ACC tournament game in the shot-clock era and, lastly, last year’s 84-64 loss to Boston College.
Said Miller, “That would be a big thing for me, just being able to stay past the first day. I think we have a good shot. Not looking past the first game, but games to come, it looks like we’ve got a pretty good schedule.”
6. The website teamrankings.com gives Tech a 56.8 percent chance to beat Boston College, a 20.7 chance to beat Clemson in the second round and a 2 percent chance to beat Duke in the quarterfinals. The Jackets are assigned a .53 percent chance to make the finals and a .11 percent chance to win.
You knew this was coming…