The 2015-16 season has proven to be a struggle for the Boston College basketball team. After starting the season 7-6, the Eagles have fallen into a nine game skid, all of which have come at the hands of conference opponents. The ACC remains one of the top basketball conferences in the country, showing no mercy to rebuilding teams like Boston College.
After losses to #2 North Carolina and #9 Virginia earlier this week, the Eagles find themselves in the midst of their toughest part of the schedule. Unfortunately, it does not look to lighten up anytime soon.
Saturday afternoon, the Eagles took Louisville --- another top-20 opponent. Coming off a win against North Carolina this Monday, Louisville looked to keep their momentum going against the struggling Eagles offense. Coming into Saturday’s matchup, the Eagles were ranked as the 13th worst offense in college basketball with an offensive rating of 91.6.
Louisville, on the other hand, came in as the third best defensive team in the country, boasting a defensive rating of 89.0. In today’s game, the Cardinals certainly displayed their defensive prowess. BC scored just 14 points in the first half, its lowest total of the season. Louisville forced 18 Eagles turnovers, eventually leading to a 79-47 blowout.
Although the Cardinals are clearly the better team, this was a poor display of effort by the Eagles. Louisville scored as many points in the second half as the Eagles did the entire game. If the team wishes to be competitive in games like these in the future, the effort on both sides of the ball must be present.
After Louisville, BC heads back home and take on #2 North Carolina on Tuesday. In the team’s previous matchup, the Tar Heels forced 23 turnovers en route to a 89-62 victory. Eli Carter turned the ball over 7 times on a night where the Eagles starting lineup alone had 19. If the Eagles hope to get revenge on Tuesday night, they must protect the ball. Allowing the Tar Heels to get out in transition after a steal will prove to be costly.
Look for the Eagles to exploit North Carolina defensively, one aspect in which they have been vulnerable this year. Carter and Dennis Clifford will need to shoot efficiently while looking for Matt Milon and Sammy Barnes-Thompkins behind the arc. If the Eagles find success there, while also tying up the loose ends on defense, Boston College could possibly give the Tar Heels a run for their money.
This stretch of games has been a real test for Boston College’s young players. Since the team has been without freshman standout Jerome Robinson --- who broke his wrist falling after a dunk against FSU --- and will be for a few more weeks, more of the younger players will have to step up and fill the void. AJ Turner, Milon, and Idy Diallo will all have to take hold of a larger responsibility on the court.
The one player to especially keep an eye on during this tough stretch is Turner. Although believed to be a significant piece of the future, the freshman has struggled significantly in ACC play this year. In 9 ACC games this season, Turner has averaged just 4.4 PPG while shooting at a dismal 31.1% FG from the floor. He has also struggled to find his teammates, averaging less than 2 assists per game since January 2nd.
At Virginia on Wednesday, Turner was held scoreless in 36 minutes while only attempting 3 shots the entire game. He also found himself scoreless in the first half of Saturday’s game against Louisville, and scored only 6 points in the second half. Turner must be more aggressive on offense in finding his shot. He has shown signs throughout the season that he can be a solid piece for Boston College.
Turner had a nice outing against North Carolina this week, scoring 10 points while also pulling down 7 boards. Another strong performance against the Tar Heels on Tuesday would provide the Eagles with a nice silver lining amidst the disappointment and struggles of this season. If Turner can show more consistency the rest of the season and look to be more efficient in creating his own shot, the team is sure to at least stay in contention with the competition to finish the season.
Missing Jerome Robinson on the court provides a blow to the young core of the Eagles. If Boston College wants to prove they are a competitive team against North Carolina and Louisville --- two teams likely to play well into March --- they must begin looking in another direction for answers.
As the regular season winds down, Jim Christian should be considering giving his young players more minutes so they can develop for next season. Carter and Clifford will not be contributing to the team three or four years down the road and don't seem to be playing to the level expected of them earlier this year.
Although the results may be tough to swallow for Christian’s staff, more playing time against strong programs will help the Eagles’ young core develop into a more competitive team in the future.
Follow @BCGavelSports on Twitter for the latest updates on Boston College athletics.