After a two win showing at the ACC Tournament, the Boston College men’s basketball team thoroughly earned a trip to postseason play at the NIT Tournament. With their first postseason bid since Steve Donahue’s inaugural 2010-11 run at the same NIT, the Eagles will be facing an unfamiliar foe in the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, a team that has far more recent NCAA Tournament experience than BC. Jim Christian’s team has a chance to win 20 games for the first time in his tenure and since that same 2010-11 season. Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape for both sides for this first round matchup.
Points per game: WKU 78.4, BC 76.8
Rebounds per game: WKU 35.7, BC 37.1
Points allowed per game: WKU 70.1, BC 74.4
Assits per game: WKU 13.5, BC 14.3
Some New Rules: The NIT is experimenting with some new rules this postseason, and we’ll get a good look at them tonight. There will be four 10-minute quarters, a deeper three point line (back 20 inches to line up with FIBA length), a widened painted area, and new shot clock rules on offensive rebounds (clock will reset to 20 seconds instead of the full 30). It should be interesting to see how the team adjust on such short notice.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1) Go Jerome Go: I hope with every fiber of my being that this isn’t the last we see of Jerome Robinson in a BC uniform, but the possibility is there. So Jerome, go off. Drop 30 on them. Laugh at the extended three point line after you hit your fourth trey in the first half. Do some crunches after you get fouled for an and-one. If this is to be your end, then I would have you make such an end. He’s been a pleasure to watch all year, and we should all be hoping for at least one more jaw dropping performance from him.
2) Hit the Boards: Western Kentucky shoots a high percentage, hitting at around 49 percent on the season and 36 percent from threes. BC needs to limit them to as many one-and-dones as possible on the defensive end because the Hilltoppers can make them pay if they don’t. No one on Western Kentucky scores at the rate of Robinson or Ky Bowman, but they have five players averaging in double figures and their leading scorer, Justin Johnson, hits at a 43 percent clip from deep. Keep them to one shot per trip down the court.
3) Pop Pop: Coming off a solid ACC Tournament where he averaged where he averaged more than 14 points per game, Nik Popovic has a chance to assert himself early and often on Tuesday night. The Hilltoppers have no player listed as over 6’9”, meaning Pop should have a full two inch advantage over anyone guarding him on Tuesday. The sophomore has shown flashes of a solid post game over the past two seasons, and tonight would be a great time to see it all come together.
Bonus Key: Enjoy It: I’ll level with you all here, I had basically no expectations coming into this season. I knew Ky was a stud and I had a feeling another player or two would emerge, but did anyone really expect (at least) a 10 win improvement over last season? Did anyone see Jerome as an All-ACC first teamer? Who was calling for Steffon Mitchell to be a 30+ minute a game player? Or for Jordan Chatman to put up 13 points a game? A lot of things went right this season and the future looks brighter than it has in a while, don’t let one game change that.
Laura: BC 78-65
Steven: BC 67-62
Brian: BC 71-64 (Brian is my roommate that I called on because I waited too long to ask for predictions, apologies)
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