Win (many times) and you’re in - there’s no other way to the NCAA tournament except to win the ACC. Likely? Of course not. Vegas has 500-1 odds that the Eagles win the ACC and that seems generous. But sports aren’t about logic, so here we go.
THE ACC TOURNAMENT GAME 1
It’s the 11th seeded Boston College Eagles vs the 14th seeded Pittsburgh Panthers. The Eagles were victorious earlier this season in Conte Forum, winning 66-57 behind a well-balanced team effort despite being without both Wynston Tabbs (who will be out for this one as well) and Nik Popovic (who has been a full practice participant the past few days). Steffon Mitchell had 5(!) blocks in that one and Jairus Hamilton went perfect from three. Defensively they held Pitt to just 29% from the floor, which seems unsustainable until you remember the Panthers have one win since schools got back from winter break in mid January.
Another good defensive team, which could prove tough for the Eagles after a disappointing end to their regular season. They hold their opponents to just 41% from the field and flourish on the highlight plays. Terrell Brown is one of the conferences leading shot blockers (he blocks the same number of shots as Zion Williamson) and Trey McGowan averages 2 steals per game, good for third in the conference.
Offensively, they’re not last year’s abomination. But they’re not great either. Their leading scorer, freshman G Xavier Johnson, averages just 15 ppg. Only two other players average double digits. Things are looking up for the Panthers, however, as three of their four leading scorers are true freshman. This may not be a team at the bottom for very long.
Keys to the Game
Defense, defense, defense. Offensively the Eagles match up well and they won their last meeting with Ky Bowman shooting just 25% from the floor. I also refuse to believe that a team that has been pretty good offensively all season will do so poorly two games in a row. But after Saturday’s pathetic effort against NC State, the Eagles need to bring the heat on the other end. Communication in particular was lacking, which led to a number of open dunks.
Elsewhere, just don’t get frustrated. This is a very good team defensively that contests every shot. When the first three don’t go in or Jordan Chatman gets a layup blocked into the second deck, neither the Eagles nor Jim Christian can sag their heads. Keep shooting and run your sets.
Player To Watch
This is going to be a low scoring affair, so one player going off for 15 might be the difference maker. If there’s anyone who might do that its Jared Wilson-Frame. The senior guard shoots 39% from three on huge volume and has had a stretch of solid games since February. All it takes is for him to open 3-3 from deep and they may not stop going in.
Matt: 78-70 BC
Toppin: 71-66 BC
Katie: 72-65 BC
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No Word on Jared Hamilton as of yet: will update as we find out more.