Tuesday, December 8, 2009

MBB Game 9: Harvard at Boston College

I still have a little less than three weeks to say something about the upcoming bowl game with USC (and I will have plenty to share when the time comes), but as for now, we still have several other BC sports which require our attention.

Now normally, a basketball game against Harvard when your team is undefeated on the US mainland isn't that big of a deal.  The only problem is that this same game last year was the mother of all letdown games following BC's thrashing of the Tar Heels in the Dean Dome.  Sure, beating Miami doesn't quite rise to the same level of taking down the #1 team on their home court, but coming off of a few key wins, it will be very important for the Eagles not to get caught sleeping again.  The loss to the Crimson last season stayed with them all season long and cost them a seed or two in the Tournament.  It was easily the team's biggest "WTF loss" since I started following them in 2004.  An encore performance would make the St. Joe's game look like a good loss.

If BC wins: 7-2 (1-0); order restored, and a four-game win streak
If BC loses: 6-3 (1-0); consecutive titanic WTF losses to Harvard

In the January disaster against the Crimson, Jeremy Lin (by far their best player) scored 27 while Corey Raji led the Eagles with 16.  Yeah, BC out-rebounded them 38-28, but Harvard shot 50% from the floor and made 20 of 23 free throws.  BC, on the other hand, shot 44% (15% on threes) and made only 10 of 16 from the stripe.  There aren't enough bad things you can say about BC's effort that night, as Harvard clearly played the better game.  This time, the Eagles will try to settle the score, and it starts with limiting Jeremy Lin.  He averages almost 18 points per game this year and lit up #14 UConn for 30 points a few days ago.  The good news is that no one else on their roster averages more than 10 points per game, though several other guys who remain from last season had nice games at Conte last time.

Boston College must also retain their aggressiveness.  Rakim Sanders will not return until the Rhode Island game this weekend, but BC has proven that they can win without him.  Reggie Jackson and Corey Raji have been very big for the Eagles early on, and the team in general has been going after the basketball on the boards with great success.

Now, being honest, I can't see Harvard coming into the Conte Forum and beating BC in consecutive years.  I get the sense that they will be very motivated not to let their guard down again, but it will come down to how this plays out on the court.  BC has had second-half leads in excess of 15 points in each of their last three games, only to win each by five or less.  Closing out is just something this team doesn't do well at this point, but no matter how you slice it, BC is still the superior team.  The Eagles are 14.5-point favorites, and that sounds about right to me.

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