Many things went well for the Boston College Eagles Saturday afternoon against the Duke Blue Devils. However, there were things that the Eagles, naturally, need to look at more closely. Let's break it down.
- Good Start: When playing better teams, it is incredibly important to get to a quick start, preferably carrying into halftime. Especially at home, this generates the momentum that helps carry an underdog to a potential upset. For a significant portion of the first half, the Eagles were leading, and a little less than three quarters into the first half, it was a one possession game. The Eagles will be playing the majority of the ACC schedule against teams better than them, so it is good to see, especially in the team's first conference game, that they get to a good start.
- Idy Diallo: Diallo has really come a long way from where he was a few months ago. I have had trouble finding a proper word to describe my impression of Diallo, other than impressed (which drew a little bit of good-natured ribbing from Jim Christian). The reality is that he has improved tremendously from his days where he was taking a foul every two minutes. His improvement gives a little bit more depth to the lineup and allows for Christian to have a solid option if Dennis Clifford runs into foul trouble.
- Not Getting Blown Out: Look, everyone knew going into this game that an Eagles victory was a long shot. Based on where the Eagles were in terms of development, the Duke game was going to be a shock to the system, but they were able to hang around and play a solid 40 minutes. There were things that could have been better for sure, but for where the program is right now in terms of rebuilding, I'll take an effort like that in a heartbeat. For BC fans, Saturday afternoon has to be encouraging.
- Turnovers: Delicious At Bakeries, Not So Fun At Basketball Games: The Eagles learned very quickly that ACC teams do not mess around in terms of aggressiveness with regard to defense. On multiple occasions, Grayson Allen forced a turnover around the top of the play, leaving nothing but daylight for him, especially when considering his speed. Duke only had four more points off turnovers than BC, but that's a bit of a soft number, as not all turnovers are created equal. BC had a couple of bad turnovers that directly led to points, and that can't happen.
- Leaving the Corners Unguarded: Jim Christian mentioned that, with game-planning defense against Duke, it is a manner of "picking your poison." The Eagles chose to protect the rim, leaving the corners vulnerable. The Blue Devils exploited this, and Brandon Ingram set up shop in the 90-degree angles that marked the meeting of the sideline and baseline of the Conte Forum court. Ingram had multiple open looks, as did others on the Blue Devils, and the issue of leaving the corners unguarded became apparent. With Duke being a drive team, as Christian noted, it made sense to protect the rim. That said, with the Blue Devils taking the dare to make their three-pointers, and succeeding, something needed to be adjusted. I'm not saying give up the inside, but at least put someone in the same zip code as Ingram.
- A Very Pro-Duke Crowd: Duke is a national powerhouse. They travel very well. Let's get those facts out of the way. The crowd at Conte Forum was noticeably filled with Duke supporters. There could be many potential explanations for this problem, and the fact that it was Duke was one of them. The fact that BC's students were scattered around the country for winter break also didn't help matters (and before you say that I was able to make it, I'll remind you that I have a job, and I'm nuts.)
- Ticket prices. But perhaps there was something else to it. My parents were able to procure tickets, all the way up in the nosebleeds. Face value for the ticket was $60. For a rebuilding team, that's an absurd price to expect the fanbase to pay, and lo and behold, shockingly, many BC fans did not pay to watch the game at Conte Forum. BC fans are not going to pay high prices to see this team right now. Duke fans, especially those in the Boston area, would be more willing to pay the price, given the infrequent nature of Duke's visits to Boston. The price points likely alienated BC fans and kept them home, leaving the opportunity for more Duke fans to purchase tickets that they were more willing to pay for given the condition of the Blue Devils' program. Essentially, BC priced out its own fans.