Todd Van Emst
The Tigers hit the court for the first time ever in the state of Massachusetts to face the Eagles.
The last time these teams met was Dec. 23, 1985, in the championship game of the Red Lobster Classic. Auburn, under coach Sonny Smith, came away with the win, 89-85. With a 1-2 record at the Charleston Classic (2-2 overall for the season), the Tigers gained valuable valuable road experience for Boston College and, perhaps, better understand the challenge they face this afternoon.
After winning their opener against FIU, 84-70, the Eagles were off to Charleston, where they went 0-3. In the first round, they lost to Baylor, 84-74. BC lost, 87-71, in the second round to Dayton, a team that bested Auburn on the last day of the Classic, and on the final day of the Classic, the Eagles fell to College of Charleston, 71-67. Transitive property never seems to work in any sport, so there isn't a lot of room for assumption that Auburn should walk away with an easy win. The KenPom rankings (with data through November 20) still has Boston College at 160 and Auburn at 186. Preseason rankings from Basketball Prospectus had BC at 171 and Auburn at 101. Take what you want from that.
Since our last post on Boston College, key sophomore Jordan Daniel left the program to potentially transfer to a West Coast school. Probably starters are sophomore forward Ryan Anderson, sophomore guard Lonnie Jackson, freshman guard Olivier Hanlan, sophomore center Dennis Clifford and freshman guard Joe Rahon. BC's clear leader is Anderson, who had 25 points and six rebounds against Baylor. Clifford, voted the team's sole captain, was second on the team last year in rebounding (4.7) and third in points (9.1) per game, and he led the team in in shooting percentage (52.9). Rahon had 16 points against Dayton and shot 5 of 9 from the field. Look for sophomore guard Patrick Heckmann to come off the bench and boost the offense. He had 18 points against Charleston, shot 6 of 9 from the field and hit 4 of 6 from the behind the three-point arc.
The Eagles can lag at times on defense, but they have size and improved speed from last year. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers can take advantage of the shaky perimeter defense and connect on some shots from behind the arc. Another thing to note is that BC is composed primarily of freshmen and sophomores, who at times, resemble Auburn, in that they are still learning how to play with and off each other. While one would not label them "prone to turnovers," they do happen, and one has to wonder if Auburn's veterans will be able to capitalize and show improvement in transition. Frankie Sullivan has shown he can be depended on for the fast breakaway, but it would be nice to have Chris Denson back to add a few of his own as well. Auburn needs someone else to step up in place of Denson.
After the games in Charleston, it is clear that talent and athleticism are present for both squads, but given the first few games, it is tough to know what to expect Wednesday. For Auburn, it comes down to the usual to-do list: commit fewer fouls, make free throws, guard the perimeter and have someone other than Sullivan contribute on offense. Given the last few games, just committing fewer fouls would be the biggest improvement. The offensive and defensive fouls against Dayton, plus the fact that Dayton made 27 free throws, were hard to stomach. With Shareif Adamu, Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, Shaquille Johnson, Jordan Price and Brian Greene Jr. gaining valuable playing time in the Classic, we can hope for more consistent play from the new faces in Boston. Cross your fingers, Tiger fans. Tip off is 3 p.m. CT, and the game will be aired on ESPN3. Radio coverage is provided by the Auburn IMG Network / XM 190.
For the BC side of things, head over the SB Nation's Boston College blog, BC Interruption.