To preview tomorrow's Boston College basketball game against #2 Virginia, we sat down with the boys over at Streaking The Lawn to get their take on the Cavaliers. Our questions and STL's answers below.
BC Interruption: 16-0 is pretty heady stuff, even for a team that was picked in the top 10 preseason. What's been the reaction to where Virginia finds itself in the ACC and in the nation and outside the famed packline defense, what's been the keys to getting there?
Streaking The Lawn: Everyone thought Virginia would really suffer without Joe Harris (#SWOON), and not to slight Harris in any way whatsoever (because, again, #SWOON), this may be an addition by subtraction situation here. Because Harris was the clear star last year, and the go-to clutch player when plays needed to be made, I think there was a certain level of content among the players that, when push comes to shove, it was up to Joey Hoops to turn it on. This year, the team is very well rounded, and they're playing as such. Aside from just a lot of general player development, you can see this year that there's no real one player that is the person to rely on in end-of-game scenarios (though Virginia hasn't had much of those, either). It's a very unselfish team that just plays sound fundamentals, and they're being rewarded with win after win, at least so far.
BCI: Back to the packline, it clearly has become the Hoos calling card and something Tony Bennett and his Dad before him have relied on. Why has it been so successful and what does a team need to do to be successful against it?
STL: If your boys can shoot lights out from beyond the arc, they stand a very good chance of knocking Virginia off. Because the goal is the pack the invisible line a few feet inside of the three-point line, the three-point line, therefore, is largely unguarded. Yes, Virginia has some quick players and quick hands to get to the three-point line, but a player who is able to catch and shoot, consistently, from three, is a player that will be a huge threat to the Hoos. We saw that when Miami came back big in the second half to bring that game into overtime, and again in the first half of both the NC State and Notre Dame games, all three times the opposing team shooting 50% or better from beyond the arc. Luckily for Virginia, it's difficult for a team to maintain a high 3-point shooting game for both halves.
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BCI: Justin Anderson has been fantastic for UVA this season, for those that haven't had the chance to see him play often, talk about his game.
STL: Anderson is, quite frankly, the most athletic person on Virginia's team. He can catch and shoot from anywhere on the floor, he loves the alleyoop, and there's a whole sizzle reel of his threes, dunks, and blocks all season long. If he's quiet, Boston College will be able to remain competitive in the game, but boy, if he's lighting it up, get ready for the #cavalanche (yes, that is a thing we are trying to make happen). It's almost surprising that he's playing at Virginia, because you can tell that, deep down, Anderson would be really, really happy playing for a high-powered offense where he can just unleash the kraken. But it's been fun watching him grow less and less selfish over the past few years, passing up some low-percentage, but #sctop10-worthy shots to play smarter basketball.
BCI: Outside of Anderson, who and what should BC fans be looking at on Saturday?
STL: Oh, where do I begin with this question? And I'm not just asking that as a biased fan. Kenpom's current five-person All-ACC team included UVA's Anthony Gill, Justin Anderson, Malcolm Brogdon and Mike Tobey, with Duke's Jahlil Okafor as the outlier. Keep an eye out on all three of the other guys, I guess. Gill is playing way bigger than his actual size, both in the low post and in the paint, on both sides of the floor. Mike Tobey, on the other hand, is not as aggressive as fans would like for him to be, but he actually plays some pretty smart basketball and isn't the worst when it comes to rebounding. Tobey is a fairly decent threat from multiple spots on the floor, including mid-range and some long-ball mid-range shots. Lastly Brogdon, affectionately called Uncle Brogdon around these parts, is the leader of this team. He does not get shaken up easily, and even if the Hoos get down, or even get down big, Brogdon works somewhat mechanically, consistently, in a way that gives Virginia some hope in terms of a slow and steady comeback. He's quietly the team's second highest scorer, averaging 13.2 points a game.
BCI: BC relies so much on Olivier Hanlan, not only to handle the ball and run the offense, but to score. Anything special you see Virginia doing to take away BC's biggest threat?
STL: Last year, Hanlan, together with Ryan Anderson, was effective in leading a strong comeback effort by BC against Virginia by spreading Virginia's defense and using lots of motions and screens. He got a lot of shots off because he was quick and active throughout the entire game. I don't see Virginia doing much to specifically target Hanlan during the first half, as a way to test how hot Hanlan's shooting hand will be from long distance, but if things are going well for the Eagles, I would expect someone with a size advantage to guard him in the second half.
BCI: UVA has beaten some good teams already, but the back half of the schedule seems by far the stronger. Thoughts on how long Virginia can remain unbeaten and the expectations for the team based on this start?
STL: UVA can remain unbeaten so long as they keep scoring. Specifically, keep scoring more points than the opponent. #hottake! No really, no one is expecting this team to stay undefeated for the remainder of the season - you'd be a fool to expect that of any team in college basketball. The toughest stretch will come at the end of the month when Virginia plays Duke, at North Carolina, Louisville, and at NC State all back-to-back. It's going to take a lot of mental focus to get through that part of the gauntlet, although the players have repeatedly shown the one-game-at-a-time mentality (Anderson once asked the media in a post-game presser who the Hoos were playing next).
No one has had the gall to talk about expectations for this team yet, in terms of NCAA fun times. The general consensus is that this team has proven themselves to be an improved version of last year, and if that's the case, we should be seeing more than "just" a Sweet Sixteen appearance. But for now, everyone is just enjoying the ride and watching, one game at a time.
BCI: So 16-0 plays 8-7...Eagles at home..any worries? Do you have a score prediction?
STL: I wouldn't be a long-time Virginia fan if I said I didn't have any worries for this, and every, game. On paper, Virginia should wipe the floor with Boston College, but BC kept it competitive last year and I would expect that the experience of someone like Hanlan will be instrumental in reminding some of the other guys that Virginia is not without its imperfections and that, if the offense can remain active for the full 35 seconds of the shotclock, and for both halves of the game, they'll be rewarded with buckets. Still, I predict a good game for Virginia to come out with a 60-48 victory.