There are some approaches that Boston College just doesn't match up well against. Playing against a zone has been one of those things, as has teams with size, particularly ones who focus on getting the ball to those post players. Yesterday, both of those areas, along with a few others, were exposed as the Eagles dropped to 9-13 overall and 1-9 in ACC play, losing to #12 North Carolina, 79-68 at Conte.
Let's take a look at a few things BC did well and some others the Eagles definitely struggled with.
Generating Points from Turnovers
North Carolina is famous not for great defense, but for half court pressure defense, forcing you out of your offense and into turnovers that they turn into transition baskets. Yesterday, though, BC had the upper hand in that category, outscoring the Heels 22-16 off turnovers. North Carolina committed only 14 turnovers for the game, so the Eagles were extremely efficient in converting those mistakes into points.
He's been on this list for a while now, but it's warranted. The New Jersey native continues to piece together solid game after solid game, scoring 18 points on 6-12 shooting, along with being the Eagles leading rebounder with 6.
Brown was only 2-7 from three point range and did have a couple quick or off balance shots, particular from beyond the arc, but considering he and Olivier Hanlan were once again the only scoring options for BC and that he was forced to guard post players for a portion of the day, he had a very good game.
This was Brown's 6th consecutive double figure game.
Getting in the Lane
BC was only able to score eight points from the pure post players on the floor (Clifford, Cain Carney and Odio), yet scored 32 points in the paint for the game. Not a huge amount, but definitely emphasized the effectiveness of the wing players and guards at getting to the basket for scoring opportunities. Clearly the leader there yesterday was Olivier Hanlan, with a season high 30 points. Hanlan got up 20 shots, his most since the USC game in December, making 10. Like Aaron Brown, he also struggled from deep range, shooting just 2-9 from 3, but that does equate to 8-11 in the paint, a very strong performance against the length of a team like Carolina.
It's a bit difficult to put a lot of blame on anyone for this, but it's also impossible to ignore it. The Heels outscored BC 46-32 in the paint and out rebounded them 37-23, with the UNC post players outscoring the Eagle posts, 53-8 in total. That said, BC played without Will Magarity (concussion) and of course has been without KC Caudill and Idy Diallo all season. Against a team, really the first team, to focus on pounding it inside, the Eagles were going to be in trouble.
If anyone is to blame though, this might be a good time to look at the BC defensive strategy and execution. BC lacked a definitive strategy on how to play the UNC bigs, often sitting right behind and allowing easy catches. I did notice Eddie Odio trying to front and he even drew an offensive foul that way, but there was also inconsistent, sometimes nonexistent weakside help when fronting and that, along with a very skilled Carolina front court who made shots, was going to be a problem.
Interestingly, we saw no zone out of BC all day, sometimes playing zone when you are giving up size rather than owning a huge size advantage, is a good strategy.
Strictly by the stat sheet, BC actually owned a 6-2 advantage in fast break points, but it does have to make you wonder who is keeping stats, because anyone who watched the game knows that Carolina was extremely effective in transition.
The Tar Heel fast break is something that has been a constant since the Dean Smith days. A big right to the front of the rim on the dead sprint, the ball swing and back screen by the wing for the offside lob. BC didn't defend any of it worth a damn.
As a fast break team, Carolina tends to get the game opened up and that provides easy baskets, but fatigue aside, and some of that did set in, to be positioned to at least take away the traditional looks of the UNC break should have been something the Eagles were prepared for. That they weren't was very disappointing.
The Big Hedge
Although BC has been better defensively this season, they were done in by something they clearly have worked to improve on—and that is hedging ball screens. Hedging is the concept of the defender covering the player setting the screen stepping out to assist the defender playing the ball handler. BC has stepped out very high this year and yesterday it cost them.
Hedging means you have to "help the helper." This involves a third player, not covering the ball or the screener rotating over to cover the man who hedged. BC really had major issues with that rotation, and with the size deficiency already in place, it just made it worse.
In my opinion, the coaching staff should have played it a bit more conservatively, not hedged out so far and allowed those post players to stay at home and not turn it into the massive rotation game it became.
Three Point Shooting
Tough to get much going inside with the cast of characters BC has out on the floor as well as the size the Heels had, so when you add to that 5-23 from outside, there's not a great chance of winning.
As much as Aaron Brown has been on the good side of the ledger for the past few games, Batten remains on this side. Another 1 for day (this time 1-6) for three points. On any other roster, he'd sit and come off the bench, but Jim Christian has nowhere to go.
Penetrate to dish
One of the ways that BC could get points out of their big men is via guard penetration. If any of you caught Indiana-Michigan today or are familiar with the Dribble Drive Offense, you will see that those big men are put in position to catch the ball facing the basket and can score without making a move. The Eagle offense, though, involves those post players almost exclusively as high post ball screeners with them rolling to the rim. This usually means the few times the ball comes their way, they need to make a post move to complete a score. The Carolina guys can do this; the BC players can't.
It would be a pretty big departure from what Jim Christian is doing offensively, although it sound so simple, it would involve changing everything, but it would be interesting to see if Hanlan and crew could still get to the basket the way they did today, without use of those high post screens.
On this one, definitely not looking to criticize, more looking for alternatives...but the design of what the staff is doing is solid, unfortunately without changing something, it is unlikely the results for the post players will be much different.