Brian Favat was more than happy to field our questions and even give a prediction for the game. Enjoy!
1. Following a 16-point loss to Harvard at the beginning of December, the Eagles have seemingly turned a corner winning 6 of 7 games. The lone loss in this stretch was a competitive game against a pretty solid N.C. State team. Has this team turned over a new leaf under Donahue?
When things weren’t going well, Donahue said that you can’t judge this team by wins and losses. So I think it’s only fair not to judge this team by wins and losses when times are good, too. Winning six of seven looks great on paper, but the results have been a little more mixed.
After taking care of St. Francis (NY), BC needed overtime to take down New Hampshire after shooting 0-for-19 from three during regulation. The Eagles are a team that relies heavily on the deep ball and they almost coughed up another game to a middling opponent in the Wildcats game.
After two close victories over PC and Holy Cross, the Eagles took care of Dartmouth and then played N.C. State close at home. The win over Virginia Tech was nice, but I’m not sure how much you can take away from a victory over a team rolling with six scholarship players. Still, road victories in ACC play are hard to come by and we’ll take it – especially because this program went 0-for on the road in conference play a season ago.
What I liked about the last two games was that the Eagles have really done a better job protecting the basketball and adapting their game when the shots aren’t falling. For a team that is supposedly built to shoot the three – and shoot well, BC has struggled from range in ACC play so far. But when the shots aren’t falling, BC’s all-freshman backcourt of Hanlan and Rahon are able to adapt and work the ball down low more to Ryan Anderson. They are also not afraid to drive and penetrate.
The 3-point shooting is always going to go in spurts, but the defense has been pretty suspect and BC has really struggled from the charity stripe. They are doing things well, but struggle in other aspects of the game. They’re not there yet, but they’ve definitely turned a corner and are vastly improved from this time a year ago.
2. What is the general feeling of the fan base right now? BC and Wake have seemingly been on similar trajectories since hiring new coaches a couple years ago and are now on year 3 of the current man. What does the fan base think about Donahue and the future of the program at large?
I think the fan base is cautiously optimistic that Donahue is building something special on the Heights. He’s already recruited three players that can be stars in this league for a long time. Ryan Anderson is a stud and Donahue got absolute steals in guards Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon. If he can continue to bring in guys at the same level as those three players and solve a pretty significant scholarship imbalance, the future is bright for BC basketball.
I do have reservations about whether Eagles basketball can return to the heights they experienced in the mid-2000s in the Big East and early ACC years with the additions of Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. But I’m cautiously optimistic that Donahue will have this program competing and in the top half of the league in a year or two.
3. Ryan Anderson has been a man inside this year for BC. He attacks the defensive glass with vigor (39th best defensive rebounding percentage in the country according to KenPom) and has the ability to take over a game and score at will. What should Wake fans look for during the game from Anderson and how can Wake go about stopping him with a post defense which struggles with fundamentally sound bigs?
RA’s game has really grown with the emergence of Hanlan and Rahon at the 1 and 2. Where I think both guards enhance RA’s play is in their court vision and passing, as well as their ability to create on their own. That’s very different from even a year ago where BC relied on Jordan Daniels, Lonnie Jackson and Matt Humphrey at the guard spots. Daniels wasn’t nearly the scoring threat that either Hanlan or Rahon are, while Matt Humphrey would look to shoot more than he would pass (as evidenced by his 35% FG shooting percentage).
RA is getting a lot of easy looks based on Hanlan and Rahon’s ability to create opportunities for him. Where I think the Deacs frontcourt can slow RA is by doubling down and forcing Anderson to find the open player. Though it’s a double-edged sword, particularly if the Eagles guards are shooting well from 3-point range.
4. Boston College's best win so far this year is over Providence (72nd on KenPom) and a victory over free-falling Virginia Tech is most likely the second best win. Is there concern about BC's ability to compete against top-100 opponents as the season progresses since the Eagles have only faced five such opponents thus far and sport a 1-4 record against them?
You could easily make the case that BC’s best win of the year was the road victory over Penn State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge; not the PC win. The wheels have absolutely fallen off the Friars wagon post-BC loss, having lost to Brown, Louisville, DePaul and Syracuse since. Only two of those losses are respectable. You get the idea. But I digress.
The thing about BC is you seemingly never know what team is going to show up from night to night. Will the team that lost to Bryant and looked uncompetitive against Harvard show up, or will the team that battled a pair of then Top 25 teams in Baylor and State show?
I think BC’s ability to compete against top-100 opponents is a concern, but only a minor one. This team looked bad for large stretches of last season, yet still managed to upset the eventual ACC champs and 15th seeded Seminoles.
The larger concern, for me, is how does BC compete on the road in conference play. Hopefully the win at Virginia Tech is one this team can build on because all of one player (junior Danny Rubin) even knew what it felt like to pull out an ACC road victory.
5. What are your three keys to the game and what is your prediction for the final score?
1) If the 3-point shot isn’t falling, adapt. And quickly. As I mentioned, BC has not shot well in ACC play (though small sample size). In the early stages of the Virginia Tech game, most of BC’s attempts from the floor were short. Maybe road jitters. Not sure. If the long ball isn’t falling, Hanlan and Rahon need to adjust the offense to find ways of getting the ball in RA’s hands down low.
2) Get some production from the bench. In the win over Tech, BC rolled with basically only six players – with Dennis Clifford coming off the bench. Guys like Van Nest and Odio played a combined five minutes. Donahue is going to need some production from his bench, especially with the Eagles’ going up against a more athletic and physical front court.
3) Hit free throws. Very simple and cliché. Free points. The ACC’s best free-throw shooting program going into the Tech game wound up hitting just 20-of-35 against the Hokies. Combined with the N.C. State game, the Eagles are 44-of-72 for 61.1111111111111% shooting in conference play. BC’s woes at the charity stripe bit them in the State game and let the Hokies stick around longer than they would have otherwise had they hit a modest 50% more FTs.
I want to pick the Eagles here, but that seems a little too greedy for a program that just won its first road ACC game in over a year. I think this will be a pretty close game throughout with the home Deacs pulling away late. 75-66 Wake Forest.
Thanks again to Brian and the rest of the staff over at BC Interruption for their time and answers!