ACC Basketball

ACC Tourney | Boston College vs. North Carolina

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at North Carolina

Is Boston College better than North Carolina? No, not at all. However, they’re certainly hotter right now.

After a 1-14 start to the ACC season, Jim Christian’s squad has finally started to figure it out and have produced four straight wins, including a victory over Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament’s first-round.

North Carolina enters the tournament having lost six of their last 10 and to be honest, those four wins haven’t really been that impressive (two over Georgia Tech, one at Miami and one against this Boston College team). The last time they beat a quality team, college football was in the middle of their playoff.

In the one match up between these two teams back on February 7, the Tar Heels were desperate for a win, riding a two-game losing streak. Yet, it was the Eagles who came out early with a 9-4 lead. Yet, thanks to a strong inside game featuring Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks, North Carolina was able to take the lead. but behind Olivier Hanlan and Aaron Brown, the Eagles refused to go away, down just six, 51-45, with 16 to play. Yet, a 9-2 run finally gave UNC a cushion and they never looked back, holding on to win, 79-68.

As a team, Carolina only hit 1-for-5 from deep, but shot over 60% from inside the arc, out-rebounding the Eagles, 37-23. Johnson and Hicks (starting over Kennedy Meeks) combined for 41 points, while Hanlan finished with 30 for the Eagles.

Heading into their second round match up on Wednesday, North Carolina should stick with that game plan. Even with Kennedy Meeks not playing in this one due to an illness, the interior is the one place Roy Williams has plenty of depth. Hicks will get the start and Joel James will see plenty of action.

Defensively, there is little Boston College will be able to do against Brice Johnson, as well as J.P. Tokoto, who is playing a lot better since the last time these two met (he was just 1-for-4 in that contest). Also looking to keep it going is Marcus Paige. Coming off a 23-point outing against Duke, the Tar Heels guard may finally be getting healthy, but we shall see. He’s had a habit of following good games with bad ones.

As for Boston College, yes…it’s all about Olivier Hanlan still. He scored 25 against the Yellow Jackets on Tuesday, including the game winner. It will be interesting to see what the UNC coaching staff throws at him (traps perhaps?). The fact is, the Tar Heels have struggled to defend in the back court, as Paige, Joel Berry and Nate Britt are just not big enough or strong enough to keep opponents out of the paint. If Hanlan is allowed to work unmolested off screens at the top of the key, he’s going to have a great day.

Yet, the reason for Boston College’s most recent success is the fact that other players not named Hanlan or Aaron Brown have started to shoulder the scoring load. Patrick Heckmann has worked the inside-outside game better and has three double-digit scoring games in his last four to show for it. Against Georgia Tech, he had 12 points in the game’s first 10 minutes and finished with a season high 19 points. Meanwhile. Dimitri Batten has become a deep threat, hitting nine of his last 13 threes (in B.C.’s four wins).

While I think the Eagles will ride the momentum offensively, I still don’t see what they can do to match North Carolina on the other end of the floor and I just don’t see them coming within ten on the offensive glass. Remember, the Yellow Jackets had 14 more offensive rebounds, as the Eagles are just 310th in the nation in that category. They’ll keep it tight, but the Tar Heels simply have too much.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: North Carolina, 83-74 

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