Maybe it was a good omen for the Syracuse University basketball team that Boston has been hit with several feet of snow over the last few weeks, as the Orange are poised to head to Boston College on Wednesday. After all, Syracuse is typically on the receiving end of many a lazy joke about the weather, so heading out on the road to a venue that’ll be surrounded by the amount of snow SU fans are used to probably makes it a home game for Jim Boeheim’s squad, according to, I’m sure, several members of the media.
Amid the snowstorm, Syracuse will be hoping to unleash a flurry of its own against the Eagles, with this matchup being perhaps the most winnable game left on the 2014-2015 schedule. This is a Boston College team that, outside of star guard Olivier Hanlan, is just not very good. The Orange already beat the Eagles once this year, though that wound up being more tightly contested than most would have guessed, with a final score of 69-61.
In that game, the Orange came out red hot before going ice cold in the second half. After taking a 35-17 lead into halftime – thanks to a 31-5 run to close the half – the wheels came off after the break and Syracuse was forced to hold off a furious comeback bid, made more difficult by foul trouble for Rakeem Christmas. Indeed, the Boston College game marks the last time that Syracuse’s star center played fewer than the full 40 minutes in a game, as he logged just 23 minutes against the Eagles.
And that really proved to be perhaps the biggest difference in the game, because the Eagles didn’t have anyone who could contend with Christmas in the post. Rakeem still finished with 12 points and seven boards despite playing so few minutes, and those numbers could have easily been far higher had he been able to log a few more minutes. Instead, the Orange went to Chino Obokoh at center, and Michael Gbinije scored 17 to help hold off the comeback bid.
While the 6-foot-4 Hanlan gets all the headlines, and is a player Boeheim referred to as arguably the best guard in the ACC earlier this week, he wasn’t the one doing the damage against the 2-3 zone the first time around. Hanlan finished with 13 points, five rebounds, and five assists, and knocked down 3-of-7 threes, but it was Aaron Brown – a 6-foot-5 forward who goes into tomorrow’s game averaging 14.8 points per game – who really caused issues for Syracuse. Brown, a 33.1% three point shooter on the year, hit 4-of-10 from deep, while Dimitri Batten also had a big game, scoring 17.
Batten, unlike Brown, fits into the mold of “no-names who explode against Syracuse.” The 6-foot-3 senior averages just 7.1 points and shoots 33.3% from deep, but knocked down 3-of-7 threes against the Orange to help the Eagles claw their way back into the game.
Of course, outside of Hanlan, Brown, and Batten, the Eagles got virtually zero production from anyone else. In fact, even though Syracuse had just two bench points, the Orange still bested BC in that category. That’s right – not a single player scored off the bench for BC in the first meeting between the teams, with the five subs used that night by the Eagles combining to go 0-for-3 from the field, while also grabbing only three combined rebounds. Needless to say, it was not exactly an inspiring performance by the Boston College backups.
Hanlan and Brown have continued their stellar play of late, even as Boston College has dropped four in a row. In a 79-68 loss against North Carolina, Hanlan exploded for 30 points. The game before that, he hit 6-of-9 threes on his way to 28 against Notre Dame. Brown, meanwhile, scored 28 and hit 5-of-12 threes in a nine point loss at home against Louisville.
By the way, if you’re wondering what Batten has done since his 17 point outburst in Syracuse, in the five games since his point totals have been: 2, 5, 5, 5, 3. Yikes.
Heading to Chestnut Hill on Wednesday, the Orange will look at the other bench and see a Boston College team rocking some throwback uniforms, because apparently they didn’t learn a lesson about what a horrible idea that is from the meeting in the Dome last season, when Syracuse rocked some truly atrocious, mismatched throwbacks and promptly lost to the vastly overmatched Eagles.
Getting back to the actual game, though, on paper this looks like it should be a cakewalk for the Orange. Boston College limps in with a record of 9-13, including 1-9 in the ACC. The team’s only conference win came on January 25, when they edged Georgia Tech by two. The Eagles have lost four in a row, and head into Wednesday ranked just 14th in the ACC in scoring (64.3 PPG), 14th in rebounding (31.9 RPG), 12th in team field goal percentage (43.3%), and 10th in scoring defense (65.6 PPG). And if you were curious, the Eagles are 10th in three point percentage, just barely edging out Syracuse.
Like I said, this is not a good team on paper, and more importantly, it hasn’t been a good team in performance. Even though the Orange have struggled much of this season and head into the game with a record of 15-8, it would be a mild shock to see SU fall at Boston College.