BSD: For those unfamiliar with BC's team, briefly describe them for us. What's their style of play, what do they do well?
BCI: BC runs this weaving, high ball offense used to isolate guards for perimeter shots or for attacking the basket. They have very little inside presence and use bigs like Dennis Clifford sparingly. With this offense, they've had some serious issues attacking the zone. It's gotten a bit better as the season's worn on but there were games where they really couldn't get much of anything going against the zone and against full-court pressure.
The Eagles have really upped the defensive intensity and effort this year on the other side of the floor. They've had difficulty going up against some of the bigs in the ACC as they have limited post presence with Idy Diallo and recently Will Magarity sidelined with injury.
BSD: BC had lost nine games in a row prior to getting back-to-back wins over their previous two games. Do you feel that you all played dramatically better over the previous two games or was it just a matter of schedule?
BCI: A bit of A, a bit of B. Over the last two games, BC has really gotten more than just Olivier Hanlan in on the scoring, which has really opened things up for the Eagles on offense. With opponents really keying in on Hanlan, other guys have stepped up the scoring. Dimitri Batten had a career day at Virginia Tech in a homecoming of sorts (played three years at Old Dominion before transferring). BC got all five starters in double figures in the win over N.C. State.
I agree the schedule has softened, but the thing with the nine game losing streak is that BC was so close to breaking through over that span. Lost a double OT game to Miami where they had multiple chances to come away with the victory. Played Pitt and Notre Dame tough on the road. Ran out of gas at Florida State. The thing about BC this year is that they've been in almost every game this year with few exceptions. They just don't have the depth to close out some of these games. As the schedule has softened down the stretch, they've been able to start closing out some of these games. That, combined with Hanlan being on a ridiculous tear, has made the second half of the season a bit more enjoyable than the first half.
BSD: Here's a soap box opportunity for you. Should Olivi-eh Hanlan make 1st team all-ACC despite the team's record?
BCI: Well, from a numbers perspective, it's hard to justify leaving Hanlan off the All-ACC First Team. He's the league leader in scoring (22.6), 3-pointers / game (3.00), 3-point percentage (.457), fourth in free throw percentage (.831) and seventh in field goal percentage (.485). He's the only player in the conference with four 30+ point performances this season -- all in conference play. His stats aren't just the product of taking a whole bunch of shots either as his FG, 3P and FT percentages also rank among the best in the conference. Hanlan's ACC ranks during conference play are equal to or better than Virginia Tech's Erick Green's 2013 ACC POY season in seven different offensive categories and he's currently on a late-season T.J. Warren-esque scoring spree the likes of which BC fans have not seen in a long, long time.
That said, there are those voters who choose to vote with team success in mind. To each his or her own. I'm (clearly) not of that mindset. There are other conference awards that reward team accomplishments. I think the recent wins will help push Hanlan over, but it's going to be close.
I realize Hanlan is facing an uphill battle regarding the perception of this year's BC team and not being included on the preseason All-ACC first team. But, if the All-ACC First Team is meant to recognize the top five players in the conference irrespective of team success, I don't see how Hanlan doesn't fit the bill there.
BSD: What is the general consensus about the Jim Christian hire?
BCI: The sad reality is that I don't think anyone has changed their minds from when he was first hired to today. If you were mildly skeptical about the hire but were willing to give Christian a shot, I think that's still the mindset for a subset of the fan base. If you hated the hire or didn't understand the hire, then there's really nothing that this group of fans has seen this season that will change your mind.
I fall into the first category. I didn't love the hire, but willing to give Christian a shot. I do think we've seen some progress and signs that Christian can successfully turn around the program. That this year's team didn't quit on him despite mounting losses is, I think, a testament to Christian's ability to keep the team together and coach up the few legit pieces he has this year. They play hard night in and night out. The energy level is so much better than it was at any point last year. And they play sound defense, something Donahue did not emphasize.
I also have confidence that Christian is surrounded by a solid assistant coaching staff that will continue to improve things on the recruiting trail. Landing Scott Spinelli from Maryland and Preston Murphy from URI was a bit of a coup for BC. Recruiting is already better now than it has been over the last 2-3 years. The assistant coaching staff and recruiting are two main reasons why Donahue is no longer employed on the Heights, and things appear to be on the upswing in both departments as well.
BSD: Who ya got?
BCI: A week or so ago I would have picked Wake Forest. But things are really starting to come together for BC on offense. Over the last couple games it's gone from just the Olivier Hanlan show to a more balanced scoring attack. Because of that, I like BC to eke out a close one. Call it 67-63. But who knows with #therivalry and nothing to play for really other than pride at this point (since both teams are locked into ACC Tournament seeding).
Many thanks to Brian Favat of Boston College Interruption for taking the time to answer our questions. It's always a great time previewing Wake-BC games with these guys. I strongly encourage you all to check out their site.