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Notre Dame Basketball: Boston College (and Senior Night) Preview

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The Fighting Irish look for their 12th ACC win on Senior Night against Boston College

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Boston College Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like just yesterday that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were kicking off their season at home against Bryant, with fans and talking heads unsure if this ND team would even qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Now, here the Irish stand with one home game remaining (two conference games total left before postseason play), firmly locked into an NCAA Tourney berth with a 22-7 record (11-5 in the ACC) and eyeing a double-bye in the ACC Tournament.

Tied for 2nd in what is considered the best conference in college basketball, Notre Dame will play host to the last place Boston College Eagles tomorrow evening on Senior Night.

It’s going to be an emotional one for ND fans, as long-time lynchpins of the program VJ Beachem and Steve “White Steve” Vasturia will graduate in the spring, meaning this is their last ride. The pair will leave ND as what Mike Brey called a couple of the most successful players in program history (93-42 overall record currently - 78-25 if you just count the past three seasons, when both players really became consistent contributors).

It’s going to be tough to see these two dunk masters go...

But, since this will be their last hurrah at Purcell Pavilion, let’s take a look at their matchup with the ACC’s worst team and what we can expect to see.

Game Notes

  • Notre Dame leads the all-time series 18-10
  • ND head coach Mike Brey is 10-1 against Boston College
NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
  • BC is 2-14, in last place in the ACC, and has lost 12 games in a row
  • The Eagles are rated 164th overall on KenPom.com, while ND is rated 25th
  • KenPom.com’s metrics show BC is 177th in the NCAA in adjusted offensive efficiency at 104.6 points per 100 possessions, and 159th in adjusted defensive efficiency at 104.2 points allowed per 100 possessions
  • Meanwhile, KenPom.com rates Notre Dame as 15th in adjusted offensive efficiency with 118.7 points per 100 possessions, and 65th in adjusted defensive efficiency with 98.8 points allowed per 100 possessions
  • BC and ND play at very different speeds, as the Eagles are 42nd in the country in adjusted tempo with 71.8 possessions per 40 minutes, while the Irish are 220th in tempo at 67.9 possessions per 40 minutes
  • Over the past 5 games, BONZIE COLSON is averaging 22.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while shooting 64% from the field and hitting 6-of-7 3-pointers...in all 16 ACC games he’s putting up 17.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest to go along with 54% shooting
NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
  • Ky Bowman is averaging 19.3 points and 6.4 boards and shooting 50.8% from 3-point range over his last 10 games for the Eagles
  • In his third year as head coach at Boston College, Jim Christian has an overall record of 29-64 and a cumulative ACC record of just 6-46
  • Mike Brey is now just 15 wins away from Notre Dame’s all-time record of 393 wins held by Digger Phelps

When: Wednesday, March 1st, 2017, 8:00 PM ET

Where: Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame, IN

How to Watch: ACC Network and WatchESPN.com

Boston College Eagles (9-20, 2-14 ACC)

BC started this season having not won an ACC game since March 10, 2015. The Eagles quickly showed a bit of progress being made by head coach Jim Christian, as the team took down Syracuse in the first conference game of the year and started 2-2 in its first 4 games.

That start quickly dissipated, though, as the youth of Christian’s team showed in a 12-game losing streak immediately following those first four games. The majority of Boston College’s best players are freshmen and sophomores, as Jerome Robinson, Ky Bowman, AJ Turner, and Jordan Chatman are all underclassmen who have carried this team in the scoring department (69% of the team’s points).

Anchored by seniors Connar Tava and Mo Jeffers, Christian’s team has shown signs of life against some good teams, including in Notre Dame’s February visit to Chestnut Hill, where the Eagles gave the Irish quite a scare before ND pulled away late. Nevertheless, the team has not been able to get over the hump and win a game since they beat NC State on January 11th.

Three Weaknesses

Defense: BC struggles mightily on defense, as they rank 296th in scoring defense due to the fact that they give up 77.7 points per game. They’re also 300th in opponents’ field goal percentage (46.5%), 231st in turnovers forced per game (12.59), and 196th in 3-point field goal defense, with opponents shooting 35.2% from long range

Overall Rebounding: Although the Eagles do a good job of snaring defensive rebounds on opponent misses, BC is not a good rebounding team overall. They rank 283rd in offensive rebounds per game (9.07), 224th in total rebounds per game (35.07), and 167th in rebounding margin (0.7)

Anything Related to Offensive Efficiency: Boston College simply does not take care of the ball. The Eagles are a putrid 308th in turnovers per game at 14.8, 312th in turnover margin (-2.2), 251st in offensive efficiency (0.979), 192nd in scoring (72.7 points per game), 139th in shooting (45% from the field), and 255th in free throw shooting (67.8% as a team)

Bonus - Free Throw Defense: Some might claim this isn’t something BC actually controls (codswallop if you ask me), but the Eagles are very bad at stopping opponents from making their free throws. Opposing teams hit 75.7% of their foul shots against BC, making them 349th out of 351 teams in Division 1 in that stat

Three Strengths

Cleaning the Defensive Glass: Although they do not rebound overall very well, BC is elite in terms of the percentage of opponents’ misses that they rebound on the defensive end. The Eagles rank 5th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, collecting missed shots 79.3% of the time

3-Point Shooting: As you saw above, BC is not an efficient team, nor do they shoot well overall, but they do rank 70th in the country in 3-point percentage, knocking down 37.4% of the threes they take

Sharing the Ball: The Eagles are also decent at setting up their teammates for buckets, ranking 85th in the country in assists with 15 per game as a team. Their efficiency in doing so is another story, though, considering their turnover rate

Eagles to Watch

Ky Bowman - 6’1”, Freshman, Guard

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Ky Bowman is a freshman who has been masterful of late for Jim Christian’s squad, averaging 14.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in his first collegiate season.

Last time these two teams met, Bowman scorched Notre Dame to the tune of 29 points and 9 rebounds while knocking down 5-of-11 3-pointers.

Furthermore, he has fantastic, beautiful red hair that is both feathered AND lethal. We haven’t seen a red head of hair look this magnificent since Mike Bruesewitz was out there haunting opponents’ dreams.

Ole Miss v Wisconsin Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Jerome Robinson - 6’5”, Sophomore, Guard

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Boston College Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Robinson is the unquestioned go-to-guy for Boston College, leading the team in scoring this season with 19.4 points per game to go along with 3.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per contest.

Robinson was fairly quiet in the last meeting with Notre Dame, scoring just 11 points while also adding 5 rebounds and 6 assists. However, he’s coming off a 25-point performance against Virginia Tech and a 21-point performance against Florida State in his past two games, so look for him to score early and often to try to keep BC in the this one.

Mo Jeffers - 6’9”, Senior, Forward

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Mo Jeffers is not typically much of a threat to key on for any opponent, as he averages just 5.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as a senior.

However, Jeffers took advantage of a lack of interior presence outside of BONZIE COLSON the last time BC and ND played, scoring 12 points and gathering 7 rebounds. Look for him to once again try to mix it up inside and make some hustle plays while also attempting to keep BONZIE COLSON in check on the other side of the court.

Pick to Click

BONZIE COLSON - 6’5”, Junior, Forward

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

BONZIE COLSON, so hot right now.

The junior star for the Irish is averaging 16.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.4 blocks this season while shooting 52% from the field and 81% from the free throw line.

In ND’s 84-76 win in Chestnut Hill, COLSON went for 20 and 6 and was one of the only consistently good players for the Irish in that questionable road game effort. He’s been on fire recently (as noted above in Game Notes), and considering his 20-point, 11-rebound performance against Georgia Tech on Sunday evening, he seems poised to continue his hot play and carry the Irish to their 12th conference win.

Prediction

Notre Dame 82 - Boston College 68

VJ Beachem will be feeling a little better and shoot well in his final home game, and BONZIE will provide his typical dazzling double-double. White Steve and Matty Farrell will not be superb, but will chip in enough along with Rex Pflueger and TJ Gibbs to win this one somewhat comfortably on Senior Night.

BC's Ky Bowman will have another strong game, but he and Jerome Robinson won't have enough firepower on their own to overcome ND's team effort and the emotional home crowd at Purcell. Beachem and White Steve end their ND home careers on a high note and set up ND nicely for a double bye in the ACC Tournament.

Final point: Bobby would absolutely want me to say this: KEEP WEARING THE GOLD JERSEYS!

All stats from TeamRankings.com, ESPN.com, KenPom.com, and NCAA.com