This game marks the first of three games which UNC should win and UNC needs to win or risk doing damage to their RPI. Boston College, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are all ranked 119th or worse in the RPI. A loss to any of these hurts the RPI and hurts UNC's chances are getting to at least 9-9 in ACC play. These three wins won't help the RPI necessarily but it does help team confidence. It also helps to be 16-6 and 6-3 in ACC play at the haflway point of the league schedule. In addition this is a bounce-back game which is highly important because if one loss becomes two then the potential for a full-blown tailspin is real.
The first game on the schedule is this evening at Boston College where UNC will face a team that is not particularly good on paper but tends to play much better than that on the court(if that makes any sense) In two home games against NC State and Miami, the Eagles hung tough with both games coming down to the final minutes. Against the Hurricanes Boston College missed a game tying free throw that would have seen the contest to overtime. In short this is a well-coached team that plays well at home, even against the best teams in the league.
Boston College is led by 6-8 Ryan Anderson averaging 16.4 ppg and 9.1 rpg. The Eagles also sport four players averaging in double figures including Lonnie Jackson who leads the team in three point shooting at 40%. On paper Boston College is not a great rebounding team averaging 33 boards per game and 289th in offensive rebounding rate. The Eagles do a better job on the defensive rebounding holding teams to a OR% of 28.0, good for 45th in the country. Probably the bigger issue for UNC is tempo. Boston College slows it down coming in at 238th in adjust tempo with 65 possessions per game. Obviously UNC wants no part of a slower game given the relative struggles on the offensive end.
For UNC, a lot of focus will be put on how much P.J. Hairston plays and what kind of lineups Roy Williams uses. There is still an element of throwing things at the wall to see what stick with how Williams has handled his lineup. If UNC struggles, comes off half-heartedly or otherwise stinks the place up, there will be of that. As always it comes down to getting consistent scoring from James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston. Without all of those players producing the game is tougher to win. No one can say for sure if J.P. Tokoto is going to be effective or Joel James is going to keep his pivot foot down and not reach for stupid fouls. UNC certainly enjoys certainly has the superior talent but having that talent mesh is the issue. Not meshing in a game against a mediocre team on the road that is well-coached is a recipe for a bad loss.
UNC needs the next three games to avoid going to a desperate place where wins against better teams are a must. Playing with that kind of urgency is an absolute must at this point.
UNC 71 BC 66