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Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Indiana Hoosiers at Boston College Eagles (preview).

Boston College Eagles
Current record: 4-2
Current RPI: 128 (IU is #51)
CurrentSagarin:  63 (IU is #70)
Current Pomeroy: 41 (IU is #59)
2009-10 record: 15-16 (6-10 in ACC)
2009-10 RPI: 125
2009-10 Sagarin: 71
2009-10 Pomeroy: 62
Pomeroy scouting report
Series:  BC leads 2-1
TV: 7:15 p.m. today, ESPNU
Blog: BC Interruption, Eagle in Atlanta

For the first time this season, the Indiana Hoosiers will play a game away from Assembly Hall.  IU faces the Boston College Eagles at their arena, Conte Forum.  This will be IU's first visit to road game at BC, and will be the first on-campus game between the two schools.  All three of the previous meetings came on neutral courts, in the 1983 Hoosier Classic in Indianapolis and in the 1994 and 1996 NCAA Tournaments.  This will be the first meeting between the schools since the Eagles eliminated IU from the NCAA Tournament twice in my four years of college. 


In 1994, IU had a solid but not great season after losing Calbert Cheaney, Greg Graham, Matt Nover, and Chris Reynolds from the 34-4 1992-93 Hoosiers.  IU entered the tournament as a #5 seed and knocked off #4 Temple in the second round, but lost point guard Sherron Wilkerson in the Temple game to a gruesome spiral fracture of his lower leg that caused him to miss the entire 1994-95 season.  At the time, the Wilkerson injury didn't seem like the end of the world.  IU almost certainly would lose in the Sweet 16 to the #1 seed, North Carolina, anyway.  I recall nearly driving my car off the road when I heard on the radio that Boston College had upset UNC in the game after the IU game, the first time UNC had failed to make the Sweet 16 since 1980.  Suddenly, the teams left in the region were IU and three teams that had never been to the Final Four (to illustrate how long ago this was, the other two teams were Connecticut and Florida).  Unfortunately, IU missed Wilkerson's defense, and a three point barrage allowed BC to end IU's season in Miami.  Two years later, in Orlando, 11-seeded BC upset  6-seeded IU.  Brian Evans, the Big Ten MVP, IU's first Big Ten scoring leader of the Knight era, and my all-time favorite Hoosier, carried a flawed team all season but had a poor night against the Eagles.  In short, if I'm more into this game than other IU fans, it's because Boston College ruined my college experience.  Okay, not really, but those were two of the most disappointing losses of my time at IU.

Enough about the past.  This is the first season of a new era for BC.  Al Skinner had a fantastic run at Boston College, but two losing seasons in three years cost him his job.  BC's new coach is Steve Donahue, previously of Cornell.  IU defeated Donahue's Cornell team at Assembly Hall two years ago, and it probably was IU's best win of that season.  Donahue's decade at Cornell was tremendous: he led the Big Red from 7-20 in his first season to three consecutive Ivy League titles from 2008-2010.  As might be expected, Donahue has brought something of an Ivy League style to BC.  Most conspicuously, the Eagles are slow, slow, slow: BC's 64.8 possessions per game are #308 in Division I.  Perhaps more relevant to IU is that BC takes very good care of the ball: the Eagles rank #6 nationally with a 14.5 turnover percentage.  As I noted a few days ago, IU's offensive turnover percentage remains bad, but thanks to a high turnover percentage on defense, IU is in the black for the season on turnovers.  Maintaining that edge will be a challenge against BC.  The positive news is that BC's rebounding numbers are pedestrian (on defense) to bad (on offense).  Rebounding has been a strength for IU and both ends of the court, and tonight will be an important test against a BC team that is much more talented than any other team the Hoosiers have faced, but isn't a rebounding power.  The Eagles shoot well from two point range and from the line.  The biggest flaw in the Eagles' offense right now is that they are shooting only 31 percent from behind the arc (#233) but take 47 percent of their field goal attempts from behind the arc (#14).  At this point, BC's strength is on offense: BC is #21 in adjusted offensive efficiency and #82 in adjusted defensive efficiency.  This is a mirror image of IU.  The Hoosiers currently rank #84 in offensive efficiency and #35 in defensive efficiency.  Given BC's inclination to shoot the ball from behind the arc, obviously perimeter defense will be a huge factor.  Perhaps we will see Jeremiah Rivers more than in previous games.

Boston College's leading scorer is Reggie Jackson, a 6-3 guard who is averaging 17 points per game and shooting 36 percent from behind the arc.  Jackson also averaged 4.3 assists and 1.5 turnovers per game.  Joe Trapani is a 6-8 forward who likes to step outside.  He is averaging 13 points per game, although he is shooting only 27 percent from three point range.  Corey Raji is a 6-6 forward who averages 11.5 points per game and is shooting 62 percent from the field.

Finally, BC has played a much tougher schedule to date than has IU.  The Eagles lost to Yale early in the season, but bounced back to go 2-1 in the Old Spice Invitational, beating #33 Texas A&M, losing to #18 Wisconsin, and beating #79 Cal. 

Pomeroy predicts a 6-point BC win and gives the Eagles a 73 percent chance of victory.  Win or lose, this game will be educational for IU fans.  How will the Hoosiers fare on the road?  Can they compete with a team that has comparable talent?  I hope we like the answers.