The Boston College Eagles and Virginia Cavaliers hook up tonight for the first time since the Cavs unceremoniously ended BC's season in last year's ACC Tournament. To preview tonights game between the Eagles and Cavs, we welcome the newest addition to the SB Nation ACC family, Brian Leung, from the UVa blog Streaking the Lawn.
In exchange, we answered some questions on the Eagles over at STL.
BC Interruption: Virginia's 10-7 (1-2 ACC) record seems a bit deceiving, considering the 'Hoos have played both Duke and UNC close and knocked off the Hokies in its ACC opener. Would you agree?
Streaking The Lawn: For the most part, I agree. But keep in mind that Virginia didn't stay in the game against Duke and Carolina because they were playing particularly well, they did so because it was two of the ugliest games broadcast this season. Talent-wise, Virginia is, indeed, outmatched by all three of these teams. This showed in the final ten minutes of both the UNC and Duke games, as that's all the time an opponent needs, apparently, to win a game.
Virginia fans are hopeful after seeing these two performances. There may not be any All-ACC First Teamers this year, but at this point in the season, this team can compete against anybody. As is always the case in the ACC: Any team, any night.
BCI: ... Oh wait, Seattle?
STL: First of all, I am not ready to talk about this game yet. Get back to me in 2014. Second of all, I really think you've hit the nail on the head here. Virginia's big problem is streakiness (no pun intended with regards to the name of our site). Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to which team comes out tonight. Not to pin it all on one guy, but keep an eye out on Mustapha Farrakhan (yes, grandson of Islam's Louis Farrakhan). Virginia lives and dies by this guy. Against Seattle, Farrakhan was 1-12 from the field, 0-7 from three-point land. By comparison, Farrakhan played a productive first 20 minutes against Duke, and then failed to hit a bucket from the field in the second half. You saw how that worked out.
This was an ugly game altogether, but it wasn't televised, so I can't confirm or deny that Seattle actually had seven players on the court the entire game.
BCI: BC has jacked up a ton of threes this year. How is Virginia's perimeter defense? If there's a strength of UVa's defense, what is it? And how would you attack the Cavaliers' D?
STL: On the one hand, Tony Bennett's pack line defense is pretty good at prevent penetration. On the other hand, if you've got a bunch of shooters on your team, the game is yours. Since part of the pack line defense is that most of your players stay a couple feet inside of the arc, it gives opponents the ability to kick it to one of their guards and get a relatively easy three. If you want numbers, Virginia is ranked 300th in the country in terms of opponents' three point shooting percentage, at 37.9%.
What is noticeably improved - and effective - in my eyes this season is Virginia's willingness to provide help on defense. Traps, traps, traps. Turnovers-wise, I'm not sure it's made a big difference, but if nothing else, it's a level of defensive pressure that hasn't been there in years past.
Every game I am concerned that Virginia's opponent is just going to light it up from long distance. This game is no different.
BCI: When we last met, Sammy Zeglinski, a guy who averages less than 5 points a game during his career, scored a season high 21 points, knocking the Eagles out of the ACC Tournament. If Virginia pulls off the upset over BC, who will be UVA's unlikely hero this time around?
STL: To be honest, and I don't mean this to be a cop out answer, it may well be Zeglinski once again. If Virginia wins, I expect Mustapha Farrakhan and Joe Harris to have played well (by which I mean, scored lots of buckets). But the player who may well surprise us is Zeglinski, who has had both knee and hip surgery this year, and has just not found his game yet. He's a scrappy little guy and will fight for every loose ball or rebound in a 15-foot radius, but he hasn't been able to handle the ball as well as he could, and his shooting game has just been off. He probably won't get the starting nod, but I think it's just about time for him to remind Virginia why two years ago, as a freshman, he led the team in three-pointers, assists, and steals.
If you're looking for someone else to keep an eye on, look to Jontel Evans. He looked almost un-defendable last week against Duke. His shot has improved this year, though it's still a little off. He's a true point guard and has a tremendous defensive game (look out - 1.5 steals a game and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.83).
BCI: How has this team responded to the loss of 2008-09 ACC Freshman of the Year Sylven Landesberg? Who are the leaders of this year's Cavaliers team?
STL: This team has responded remarkably well. And in fact, this is perhaps the first, maybe the second time all season I've heard anyone bring up Landesberg. That's probably because the Cavaliers are missing their biggest leader, Mike Scott, who is out for the rest of the season due to his ankle (specifically, to remove impinging bone spurs). Scott is our leading scorer (15.9 PPG) and rebounder (10.2 RPG), not to mention a senior captain. As I mentioned above, though, Mustapha Farrakhan is the biggest factor for the Cavs. Simply put: when Farrakhan is on, Virginia wins. When Farrakhan can't buy a bucket, Virginia loses. No other single player has such an impact on this team.
Senior Will Sherrill could also provide the Hoos with the spark they need if they're in a drought. His journey has been amazing, to go from a walk-on to a team captain is a commendable feat.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got in this one? What's the final score?
STL: Virginia is ready for this. The Cavaliers have learned now that they can hoop with the best in the country; they just need to do it for a full 40 minutes. You can bet that Bennett has drilled this into the players' minds all week long. I trust that our defense, which continues to improve each game, will not pull a Washington (wherein we gave up 17 threes, or 65.4 3P% shooting). If BC's defense is as spotty as some would suggest, that's a good sign for a Cavalier offense that's trying to build a little confidence. Virginia will break the 70-point barrier. BC will not. Final Score: Virginia 74, Boston College 68.
BCI: Thanks for joining us Brian.
For more info on the Virginia Cavaliers, be sure to check out Streaking The Lawn.