To preview tonight's Boston College basketball game against the Syracuse Orange, we sat down with the boys over at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to find out who has the edge in tonight's #OrangeEagle showdown. Our questions and TNIAAM's answers are below.
BC Interruption: After a rocky start to the season, things had been going really well for the Orange, until Saturday night. What happened at Clemson?
Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician: The same thing that's happened all season: Rakeem Christmas is really the only reliable scorer. And if this team is going to bank on jumpers to win, it's going to end poorly. Syracuse has struggled shooting in recent years, but this season takes the cake. The Orange are not a great squad—with or without Chris McCullough—and that Clemson game hammers that claim home.
BCI: Rakim Christmas has gone from being somewhat of an enigma to a bonafide star. What's changed in his game or the way the coaching staff is using him to make this work?
TNIAAM: Christmas has always been one of the best athletes on the floor every night. But this season, he's finally harnessed that ability into an impressive scoring output. Syracuse running the offense through him also assists quite a bit, and since teams simply struggle to stop him...it usually helps the Orange all-around. Still, he needs help, and that hasn't been consistent this year.
BCI: Such a huge makeover of virtually the entire roster from the team that got to #1 a year ago. Where is this team in terms of how good it can be and what will be keys to having it reach its potential?
TNIAAM: Oh, this team tests the limits of hot garbage every night on offense, while finding themselves well enough on defense to actually pull out wins. Again, without McCullough, this group loses a step—but in reality, it's not as if they were worldbeaters with him. They'll probably reach their potential once per week at best, and it's unlikely they're good enough to do any more than squeak into the tourney (at best).
BCI: Is it me, or does Trevor Cooney drive Jim Boeheim nuts sometimes?
TNIAAM: Trevor Cooney drives everyone nuts at times. At his best, he's a stone-cold assassin from three and a gamechanger that puts Syracuse on a completely different level. At his worst, he's a corpse on the floor that risks far too much on defense and simply misses from the floor. So yeah, if I were Jimmy, I'd probably feel the same way (and do now, even as a fan).
BCI: The Syracuse zone defense hasn't been quite as effective as it was a year ago, but it still ranks among the best statistical defenses in the country. BC has struggled against zones a lot more pedestrian than what the Orange will put out there. What's given the 'Cuse zone the most fits and do you see the Eagles able to take advantage of it?
TNIAAM: Simple: Do you guys have a random, scrawny benchwarmer who can hit five or so threes? Or, this year, just shoot threes in general? While the team's defensive stats have looked great this season, it seems that they're even more susceptible to three-point shooters than normal. And transition baskets...wow. So yeah, if Boston College wants to pull off an upset here, running and hitting from outside should help them out rather well.
BCI: What would three keys to this game be from the SU side and you can't say "motivation for Orange Eagle points"?
TNIAAM: Surely (and damn you for taking my answer off the table):
1. Someone other than Christmas scoring. Plain and simple, this team's entirely one-dimensional as a rule, and that makes the Orange awful easy to defend.
2. Related to the first answer: hitting from outside. If Syracuse can hit from three, it allows Christmas more room to operate in the paint and stretches defenses far too thin.
3. Boston College can't get hot. Syracuse can't really play well from a deficit. So if Boston College can't put points on the board early, they'll struggle to do so as the game wears on. Start hot, however, and you'll watch the Orange try very hard (and fail) to actually run the floor.
BCI: That leaves us with predictions. BC pulled the shocker last year in the Dome knocking off #1. Can it...or will it happen again?
TNIAAM: I think that Syracuse team was better, and would contend that BC squad was worse. So that math says the Eagles win once again. But I also think Boeheim's laid into this group enough to get the point across after the Clemson loss, too. I'm concerned, but the Orange can pull off a win here if they can get production from someone other than Christmas. Syracuse 61, Boston College 57.