A win against Florida International at home to start the season is pretty nice, I suppose. A win on a neutral court against the 16th ranked team in the country would be even nicer. That's what this young Boston College Eagles team will set out to do today. As you'll see, I'm not super optimistic about their chances, but anything can happen.
Who? Boston College Eagles (1-0) vs. #16 Baylor Bears (2-0)
When? 3 PM Eastern
Where? TD Bank Arena -- Charleston, South Carolina
Where on my eyeballs? ESPNU (which we don't get on campus at BC for some ridiculous reason)
What is going to happen and such?
By accepting the invitation to the Charleston Classic, the Eagles give up their opportunity to fill up the win column with easy opponents in early November. Instead, they quickly shift to play one of the most talented teams in the nation. We've talked at length about the various themes of the BC basketball team this season. In the early, non-conference games, fans are basically just trying to find out what we have. Steve Donahue is doing the same thing. I guarantee that he hasn't completely decided on a starting lineup or any definite substitution patterns. You mix and match -- see what works and what doesn't work.
Ryan Anderson was dominant in his first game, but we're still obviously looking for continued improvement and development of his game. Dennis Clifford played just limited minutes with a sore knee, so it'd be nice to see how much that is bothering him. Olivier Hanlan was certainly impressive against FIU, but he'll be really tested by Pierre Jackson on both offense and defense. Outside of those three players, we know basically nothing about this team. In that way, today's game should be a decent measuring stick. We know (or should be vaguely aware) that Baylor is an exceptionally talented group of players and it will be interesting to see how BC stacks up. I suspect the talent disparity will be fairly obvious, but in basketball (and especially in college basketball), you can make up for that in other ways. That's what Steve Donahue is going to have to do in order to be successful with this program in general, and that's what they have to do today to take down Baylor.
I would bet big money that within the first three or so minutes of the game, the announcers mention that Brady Heslip transferred from Boston College to play at Baylor. While that's true and Heslip would have been a nice player for BC to have, that should hardly be the focal point of this matchup.
Instead, turn your attention to the aforementioned Pierre Jackson. He's basically like Jordan Daniels with superpowers. He's tiny, at right around 5 foot 10 (and that's being generous), but unbelievably quick and with crazy hops. Jackson will be, by far, the best playmaker on either team tomorrow and limiting his damage is key for the Eagles to have a chance to win. Since there's nobody quick enough on this roster to matchup with Jackson, the best solution is probably go with either length or strength. And I'm sure Donahue will try a little of both. Olivier Hanlan has the length the try to both Jackson and Joe Rahon has the strength to try to bully him a little bit. Neither will completely neutralize the preseason Big 12 player of the year, but they can't let him penetrate and get early fouls on BC's bigs.
Ryan Anderson had that monster game against FIU, but his challenge will be significantly greater today. I'm extremely impressed with his skill level for somebody that size, but then you look at a guy like Isaiah Austin for Baylor and it's just on an entirely different level. The Bears lost three bigs to the NBA last season in Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, and Perry Jones III. And they responded by adding Austin, a 7-foot-1 monster with solid handles and a sweet shooting stroke. His defensive presence will be obvious and ought to make things very difficult for the Eagles around the basket. He effortlessly dropped 22 points in 17 minutes on Lehigh before leaving the game with a rolled ankle. He sat out Baylor's second game but seems pretty likely to play today. I'll provide an update as we get closer to game time and have more information. I am admittedly, first and foremost, an NBA fan and spend a great deal of time watching these big time prospects, so you'll have to forgive me for fawning over this talent. Look at some highlights on Youtube and you'll see just what we're dealing with.
In Austin's absence from the second half of Baylor's win against Lehigh and their destruction of Jackson State, Rico Gathers and Cory Jefferson have stepped up and performed well. One of the things that I noticed in BC's win against FIU was that the effort on defense was poor. Or rather, they just didn't seem all that concerned about stopping anybody. It was as if they just wanted that possession to be over and done with so that they could get back to executing on offense. That worked against Florida International, but it won't work against Baylor. It will be interesting to see if all the conditioning in the offseason has paid off and will allow Anderson and Clifford to play 30+ minutes while giving consistent effort on both ends.
Prediction or something:
This is normally where I'd put a prediction for the score of the game, but it's so early that I don't think it's worth doing. Try not to focus on wins and losses, especially against a nationally ranked team like Baylor. Look for signs of steady improvement, constant effort, and the ability to make this a competitive game for the full 40 minutes. If the Eagles pull out a win? Hey, that'd be pretty sweet too.