Eagles Enter ACC Stretch Run Desperately Needing Win Over Miami

Julian Gamble #45 of the Miami Hurricanes fights for position with Miles Plumlee #21 of the Duke Blue Devils during a free throw on February 13 2011 at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables Florida. The Blue Devils defeated the Hurricanes 81-71. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

BC hits the three-quarters mark of the ACC season needing to string together a few wins down the stretch to make an NCAA Tournament bid. Since starting conference play at 3-0, Boston College has effectively been alternating wins and losses for the better part of 2011 (the only exception to that pattern was a 84-68 setback against now no. 1 Duke at Cameron Indoor). 

If the pattern holds, BC should get the win over Miami tonight at Conte Forum. But the Eagles will have to do more than just beat the Hurricanes; they'll have to string together only their second ACC winning streak of the season if they have any hope of making this year's NCAA Tournament.

The opportunities to get a marquee win over an RPI Top 50 outfit are now in our rear-view mirror. The Eagles own just one win against a team in the RPI Top 50: Texas A&M, and have gone 1-5 against teams in the Top 50 (two losses to North Carolina, and losses to Duke, Wisconsin and Florida State). BC's remaining ACC opponents have RPIs of 75, 146, 66 and 248, so the only chance BC has of improving on its 1-5 record against RPI Top 50 teams is to make it to the second day in Greensboro and knock off the Blue Devils, Tar Heels or Seminoles.

BC may or may not get that chance, but they will first have to get past a Miami team that defeated the Eagles 72-71 in Coral Gables back on January 15.

You might say that Miami has had quite the up-and-down season in the ACC this year. Since knocking off the Eagles, the Hurricanes proceeded to go on a four-game ACC losing streak (thanks for making us look good, Hurricanes), losing to Florida State, N.C. State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Miami rebounded by winning three straight in league play -- Georgia Tech, Virginia (OT) and Wake Forest -- before falling to both Duke and Clemson.

If there's one thing that's characterized Miami's ACC season, it's close games. Though the 'Canes have lost twice as many games as they've won in league play, they have only been outscored by just 37 points (839 to 802), with an average per-game scoring margin a hair over four points. Miami has only lost by double-digits twice in ACC play -- both of those games coming against Duke.

The Hurricanes have been in every one of the games they've lost, but they also left the door (wide) open in all four of their ACC wins -- Virginia (2 points in OT), Georgia Tech (2 points), Boston College (1 point), and Wake Forest (1 point).  

To win, it sounds cliche, but the Eagles will have to limit turnovers, play better (some? any?) defense and shoot the ball well. BC's 72-71 loss to Miami back in mid-January was one of the worst Eagles performances of the season -- the Eagles played little to no defense, turned the ball over 10 times, and missed 11 of their first 13 three-point attempts. In a word: ugly. BC will also have to put together a solid performance for more than one half of basketball. Last time out, while Reggie Jackson finished with 22 points, he was notably absent for long stretches of the second half.

The opening point spread is Boston College -4. Kenpom agrees, predicting a 74-70 BC victory with 65% confidence. In other words, it will likely be another close game between Miami and Boston College. So buckle up, because it's going to be a wild two weeks.     

 

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