BC-Wake Forest Preview and Picks
By Ben Neuwirth
The Boston College Eagles (8-6) are undefeated in ACC play. At least until Tuesday night when they travel to Winston-Salem to face the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9-5) in their second conference game of the season.
The Eagles passed their first test with flying colors, eviscerating Syracuse, 96-81, on New Year’s Day with a Conte Forum record 16 3-pointers along with 28 assists.
Ky Bowman had shown impressive flashes during the Fairfield and Providence games, but consistently dominated the Orange Sunday, showing off a lethal outside shot to go along with his bouncy driving ability and prophetic vision.
Bowman’s emergence allows Jerome Robinson to play his more natural off-ball role. He’s at his best getting the rock off a couple of screens and navigating through the chaos. The two North Carolina products have also shown some terrific chemistry together, both in transition and the half court.
Wake Forest is better than their record, losing games to ranked Villanova, Xavier and Florida St. while beating a tough Richmond Spiders team that befuddled BC earlier in the year.
Their offense, ranked 23rd according to KenPom.com, is led by a trio of sophomores, Keyshawn Woods, Bryant Crawford and John Collins. Woods and Crawford, 13.4 and 14.5 PPG respectively, are driving guards, getting over 50% of their points inside, but also unafraid to shoot it from beyond the arc, both shooting above 34% from 3. Collins, 16.4 PPG, provides a steady post presence as well as strength on the boards, pulling down 9.6 in his 23 minutes a game.
Defensively the Eagles are going to have a tough task stopping Collins as both Mo Jeffers and Nik Popovic have struggled at times guarding big post up centers and at 6’10 235 lbs, this dude is BIG. They have to do it without fouling as Wake hits over 76% of their free throws.
The Eagles played beautiful basketball in the ‘Cuse win, whipping the ball around, finding cutters inside and swinging it back out to shooters when the help came. Given that the off-ball movement is still there, BC should be able to get plenty of open 3’s on a Deacon defense that surrenders 23 looks a game, 255th in the country. Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson obviously have to play well for this offense to hum but look toward Jordan Chapman and AJ Turner as shooters who can punish defenders leaning a little too much towards the two stars.
Down low look for Nik Popovic’s role to continue to grow as Coach Jim Christian raved after the last win how “he’s got such a feel for around the basket [and] gets the ball off so fast”. Popovic’s primary obstacle towards more minutes is fatigue at this point but he gives the Eagles an element of passing and shooting from the center position that opens up so much.
The Syracuse win showed the huge potential this team has, but going on the road in the ACC is never easy. Wake Forest is a good, solid team and regardless of the result, how the young BC squad handles a hostile environment will be telling for how they do the remainder of the season.
On to the picks:
Boston College 85-80
|Ky Bowman has been an offensive revelation as of late putting up 30 against Fairfield and ‘Cuse. This combined with the offensive prowess of Jerome Robinson and the even play of AJ turner gives the BC team a semblance of a respectable ACC level offence. Look for this team to ride the momentum of the recent success. Hopefully Popovic and Chatman can add in some contributions from the bench as well. 85-80 Eagles.|
|Anthony Iati||Wake 84-76||Wake Forest is no ACC powerhouse, but they can put up points against BC’s still-developing defense. The Demon Deacons will face Virginia and North Carolina after this game, and are already 0-2 in ACC play. Wake views a home date with the young, inconsistent Eagles as a must-win, and they get it done.|
|Casey Hague||Boston College 80-72||The Eagles are riding high off the juicing of the Orange. Wake is solid but only their win against LSU holds any merit, and the Tigers are struggling this season. BC continues their start to ACC play undefeated as they take down the Deacons.|
|Steve McAlee||Boston College 80-72||This may be a Wake Forest team that put up 110 points on LSU a few weeks ago, but this is also a BC team that throttled Syracuse and is playing with incredible swagger at the guard positions. Watch out, ACC: Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson are fresh on the scene, and they’re ready to drop some buckets on you. Make it two straight to begin ACC play. 80-72 BC.|