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Toppin Off: An Inconsistent Offense

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How do you fix a Jekyll-and-Hyde offense?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 27 Saint Louis at Boston College Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’ve struggled with what to put out in this week’s column (which is part of the reason it’s a day late), because quite frankly there’s not much to be gleaned from a 19 point beat down against a team that’s now 0-10. The Eagles went out and took care of business; that’s all we can really ask of this team. They forced 24 turnovers and overcame a poor day shooting the ball through some great defense. “Defensively we played really consistently,” Christian said after they game, “when we’re good, we force turnovers, when we’re good we share the ball, guys were making the extra play.” (That’s basically a word-for-word rip-off of my BC-Notre Dame postgame analysis! Thanks for reading BCI, Jim!)

But once again the Eagles were hampered by long scoreless stretches on offense, which prevented a lopsided win from becoming an absolute shellacking. It is a problem that has plagued BC all year and stems from a number of issues, which I can dive into in a second.

And when the Eagles have been bad for stretches this year, it’s been really bad. In the each of their five losses so far this year, the Eagles have had long dry spells that resulted in scoring runs against them. By my rudimentary calculations, those runs have combined to make up to 32.5 combined minutes (that’s 16% of total playtime in those games). And during those painful 32.5 minutes, the Eagles have committed 20 turnovers, gone 0/11 on midrange shots and 0/13 from deep, and gotten to the line just seven times. Other teams have outscored the Eagles 81-8 in this timeframe. Yikes, and that’s just the losses.

On one hand, there’s not a ton to take away from the stats during these cold spells – of course the Eagles would be committing turnovers and missing shots. That’s what makes them cold.

But I think what is noteworthy is the shot selection. The Eagles aren’t taking the easy shots when the momentum is going against them. They’re not trying to work their way slowly back to a close game (and let’s be clear, only the Northwestern game was uncompetitive at the half). Instead, they’re chucking and hoping for something, anything, to go in. They want to luck into momentum, and it hasn’t worked.

They’re also, notably, not getting to the line. In a world where efficiency is the metric by which all things are measured, free throws are king. They’re also the easiest way to catch one’s breath and regroup. This isn’t last year, where only Ky Bowman and Nik Popovic were able get to the rim; this team has Derryck Thornton, Jay Heath, and both Hamilton brothers. All of them should be able get to the hoop through contact. Why aren’t they?

Some of it’s the calls and the refs. Thornton has definitely tried to slow the game down at points and not got the calls. Notre Dame nearly beat BC in a game where the Eagles had 4 FTA and the Irish had 23. It also has to do with the style Jim Christian’s squad plays: jump-shooting teams don’t get the calls because it’s a lot harder to get fouled taking a three. But there’s really not a reason they shouldn’t be trying something different.

What does this all mean? Probably that JC and his squad need to be more flexible. When the Eagles can run their offense and shoot lights out (or even just pretty well), they can compete with almost anybody. But when BC is cold and the shots aren’t falling, everyone, from Christian down to the walk-ons, must show an adaptability they haven’t so far.