Clemson at Boston College
Clemson (9-6, 1-0) at Boston College (5-10, 0-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN2/ESPN3
Boston College impressed a lot of people with how hard it competed in Chapel Hill on Saturday, cutting Carolina’s lead to nine points. With all they have been through this season, the Eagles have never given up. Clemson has also been a surprise; the Tigers came out of nowhere seemingly to throttle Florida State last Saturday, 79-59. It was the kind of offensive performance no one had seen from Clemson all year. After tonight, Clemson hosts Duke and travels to Miami, so it could really use this one. Boston College has an angry Virginia Tech team on Saturday to look forward to, but the Eagles can’t look much at wins and losses as indicative of results. They are making a lot of progress, but they have to stay positive.
Stat to watch: Turnovers. Boston College head coach Steve Donahue said on Monday that he wanted to see his team cut back on turnovers (the Eagles had 20 at Carolina); he wants to see turnovers drop from 15.1 per game to 10-12. The Eagles have turned it over 13.7 times per game in wins and 16 per game in losses; their last three BC opponents have averaged 18.3 points off of 17.7 BC turnovers. Clemson has been excellent at forcing turnovers all year but has stepped it up, forcing a 22.4% loss of ball (and 18.0 turnovers per game) in the last two compared to 13.6 turnovers per game and 18.8% loss of ball in the first 13 games.
Clemson generally takes good care of the ball, averaging 13.1 turnovers per game. But both teams have had stretches where they have hung with good teams, only to have a rash of turnovers do them in. Clemson may have exploded offensively against FSU, but they have struggled to score most of the year. If they turn it over against a rapidly improving BC team and the Eagles make them pay, this could be a closer game than people think. Conversely, if the Eagles start turning it over left and right against a team that makes you pay, this could be a lopsided BC loss.
Most important players: Dennis Clifford, Boston College and Milton Jennings, Clemson. Donahue called Clifford BC’s most consistent player so far. Clemson’s coach liked BC’s seven-footer as well. “Clifford is going to be a really, really good player in this league, sooner rather than later…seven-footer, great hands, finishes well,” Brownell said. Clifford averaged 7.8 points in his first ten games and is up to 11.8 in the last five. Against Carolina, he fouled out in 25 minutes but still shot 3-of-5 from the floor and had a solid game. Aside from reserve Bobo Baciu, Clemson doesn’t have anyone Clifford’s size; he could perhaps do more offensively than he could against Carolina’s length.
Since getting suspended for Clemson’s loss to Hawaii, Milton Jennings has averaged 10.5 points on 9-of-17 shooting in the last two games, adding 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in the last two. Jennings is clearly back in the good graces of his head coach, averaging 32 minutes in the last two games after averaging 20 minutes in the four games prior to his suspension. His performance against FSU shows how important he can be to Clemson: his 15 points and eight rebounds were both his most in a game since November 25th against Furman.
Random Stat: Of the 116 points Boston College scored against Clemson in two games last year, only five of those points (Gabe Moton) are accounted for on the current roster. Of 400 total minutes, returning players saw just for 85 (Moton played 47). In the 2011 ACC Tournament quarterfinal matchup, all 47 of BC’s points were scored by now-departed players. But Clemson returns six players who played in at least one of the two meetings; they accounted for 229 of the 400 minutes but just 68 of 147 points. Jerai Grant and Demontez Stitt (both gone) combined to score 65.
Prediction: Clemson 64, Boston College 49
Last week: 6-3 (4-2)
Season: 67-23 (6-4)