Five takes after Boston College came oh so close, but not quite, in dropping a 59-58 decision to the #9 Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville yesterday afternoon.
The loss, the fifth in a row and seventh in the last eight to the Cavs, dropped BC to 10-4 overall and 1-1 in the ACC.
It’s one that the Eagles are going to look back at and know it was there for the taking, but just couldn’t grab.
Jerome Robinson was spectacular.
There have been times this season when Robinson has either been indifferent, deferential to Ky Bowman or Jordan Chatman or forced shots early in possessions to get something started. Yesterday, Robinson did or was none of those.
The 6’5 JR from Raleigh, played with both a purpose and a passion that was first team all ACC worthy.
The vast majority of his shots were within the flow of the offense, but yet showed his assertion as the leader of this team, something that at least outwardly, you could question watching this team.
With Virginia’s pack line defense looking to take away any sort of dribble penetration but yet contest perimeter shots, Robinson was willing to take one extra dribble off that penetration while being strong with the ball to get to the rim.
BC needs all three of their stars to contribute to win against ACC level competition
While Robinson was great and Jordan Chatman certainly had his moments, Ky Bowman, for one of the few times in his career had a very poor game by his standards. Bowman did grab nine rebounds (all defensive) and his contribution on the glass cannot be overstated as the Eagles continue to be more than competitive rebounding, but the rest of his game was way off.
Bowman was just 2-10 from the floor, with five total points, but worse yet, was extremely careless with the ball, committing five what can only be described as sloppy turnovers.
His drive at the end of the game was off balance and out of control and although he wasn’t solely to blame for Ty Jerome going off for 31 points, Bowman generally dictates the game physically at the defensive end, but could not stay in front of Jerome and couldn’t contest him beyond the arc.
I realize this is a lot to ask. BC has virtually no depth that Jim Christian trusts, period, but to win at this level, all three guys have to show up big virtually every night. On Saturday, for one of the few times you can point to, Bowman was that missing piece.
Bowman is an amazing competitor, so I find it highly unlikely to be calling this out as a point as the season progresses, but without all three guys doing their thing, BC will most likely be close a lot, but not get over the hump.
Nik Popovic’s lack of maturity continues to hurt
As with every position on this team, it isn’t as if there are many depth options available to Jim Christian, but somehow, Nik Popovic needs to have a message sent when it comes to maturity and in general being competitive.
While Popovic possesses a solid skill set, his lack of maturity on the floor, which manifested itself in bad body language, poor offensive decisions (the push off at the end, although we will touch on that in a bit...and taking those threes - there is a reason you are open to take that shot) and a total lack of focus at the defensive end.
Watching Popovic stand around defensively, not in a stance, not engaged, is something that despite this lack of depth, that the coaching staff cannot allow.
Drawing up plays during time outs is not easy
We all get used to seeing NBA teams execute plays out of time outs all the time. Trust me, it isn’t that easy.
On the “first” final possession of the game, BC tried to run Jerome Robinson off a screen and then a curl cut around Nik Popovic, but the entire set looked awkward and doomed from the start.
As Coach Christian mentioned in the post game press conference, the Cavaliers do a great job in jamming handoffs and in contesting screens. Jordan Chatman expected to Robinson to get to a spot that UVA simply wasn’t going to let him reach and every other Cav defender went toward Robinson as well.
On the second play, the Eagles went much more simple, but in a similar design, looking for a Popovic handoff to Robinson who was the inbound passer, but once again UVA wouldn’t let that handoff occur. That put Popovic who is inconsistent at best in his decisions with the ball in a position to make a play and he clearly pushed off.
Going with something you run all the time or something you at least have in the arsenal, like a trick play in football, that has been practiced and understood, does tend to work better.
What does this game tell us?
That is a question that at this point, I still don’t have an answer to. Clearly, the Eagles are a better team in 2017-18 than they were in recent years, even without Teddy Hawkins.
They have done enough against their lower level opposition to get their share of non conference wins and have that win against Duke and yesterdays effort at Virginia, but it also means that BC is just 1-4 against what can be considered their direct competition (Duke, Virginia, Providence, Texas Tech and Nebraska).
Outside of the Dartmouth game, there are no more “guaranteed” wins. While not every game in the ACC will be against top 10 teams, there is not a game on the schedule that BC can just punch the clock and grab a win.
BC has done some great things that offer a glimpse to long term success in rebound rate and fouls committed and FTs allowed (wildly important with their lack of depth), there are still other things that make you wonder.
As we know, BC is as thin as any team in America. They cannot afford another injury nor can they afford foul trouble. The foul trouble one leads directly into how well the Eagles defend. It is great to be a physical defensive team, but BC can’t afford to play that way. So far is hasn’t come back to bite them, so the question is will it when the BC sees more and more teams who attack the rim and the backboard.
There is also wear and tear. It’s not the NBA, but it looks like 6 or 7 players is what the Eagles will run with for the ACC schedule. You hope that BC can add at least one more player to their depth as the season progresses. Developing one player during the year that adds to your depth is a goal I had every season and one that the Eagles definitely need.
Then there are turnovers and rebounding. Turnovers, while not great, are down from a year ago. Rebounding is significantly better than a year ago, but once again, looking at the competition they’ve done it against - the #246 rated schedule in the country.