There is a segment of Boston College fans who believe that the Eagles have already won their final game of the season. That may be so or it might not; we will not know that answer until about the second week of March.
Tonight, however, the BC men’s basketball team will face one of its least-successful ACC opponents of the season as they host the Clemson Tigers.
Though Clemson are 1-0 in the conference after having blown equally-meh Florida State away at Littlejohn, they went just 8-6 through their non-conference schedule. The Tigers’ six losses during that stretch were Charleston, Coastal Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona, UTEP, and Hawaii. A few of those are forgivable, but some others are rather inexcusable for an ACC team. Before you say anything further, we could get into the “well, BC’s losses are much worse and there are more of them” game, and you’d be right to do so, but all this demonstrates is that Clemson has struggled.
In fact, this is a team that has traditionally mopped up in non-conference play, at least in the most recent few seasons. Last year, in Brad Brownell’s first season, they went 11-3 away from the ACC, and who could forget how Oliver Purnell’s later teams would start off red-hot and blaze through non-conference play, only to melt like ice in a microwave towards the end of the season. Having a relatively slow start is an unusual situation for Clemson in which to be.
The numbers have not been good, either. As of Wednesday night, the Tigers were 249th in Division I in points per game (64.7), 214th in rebounds per game (34.3), and 167th in field goal percentage (43.7%). You can very easily point to the loss of some key Clemson players from last year to this one, most notably Jerai Grant and Demontez Stitt.
As bad as things have been at times for Clemson, however, they’ve been even worse for the Eagles. BC is now 5-10, 299th in points (61.7), 311th in rebounds (31.2), and 250th in field goal shooting (41.5%). In spite of that, the Eagles’ longest losing streak of the season has been only four games; their current is three. It’s possible that this could get longer — a lot longer — but the Eagles do have an outside shot at victory against Clemson.
For one thing, the Eagles are just 8.5-point underdogs at home here; against North Carolina this past weekend, they were 31-point underdogs, lost by 23, and the final score did not even necessarily capture how competitive BC was at times. +8.5 is a big improvement from where we’re sitting. Furthermore, Clemson has played some games this year, as seen in their hit-or-miss non-conference performance, where they lost to inferior teams. Clearly, BC has also had this problem, and worse, but the Tigers are not on the same level as the last team the Eagles faced.
All of this still probably adds up to a Clemson victory tonight, but given how BC’s opponent hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, either, one would figure they’ve got a shot, if nothing else. This is one of those very few ACC games which appears to be at least mildly winnable from a BC standpoint, so maximum effort will be key.
Gametime is at 7pm on ESPN2.