ACC Opener Analysis: Boston College Stuns Duke

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 11th, 2017

We witnessed a number of surprising results in college basketball last week — Ball State winning at Notre Dame; Washington and Arizona State beating Kansas; Florida dropping a home game to Loyola-Chicago — but the biggest shocker might have occurred at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, on Saturday afternoon. Led by its dynamic backcourt of Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson, Boston College knocked off top-ranked Duke, 89-84, in the teams’ ACC season opener. Here are a handful of takeaways for the Eagles and Blue Devils going forward.

Boston College fans rush the court after the Eagles upset Duke in Saturday’s ACC opener.
(Anthony Nesmith/CSM)

Getting behind in games this season is nothing new for Duke — the Blue Devils’ 11-0 start included several second-half rallies, most notably against Texas and Florida in the PK80 Thanksgiving weekend event. It looked like Duke was going to the well yet again on Saturday, trailing Boston College by 10 after halftime before making a late run to take a four-point lead. Jim Christian’s team had other ideas, however, failing to wilt down the stretch like the others and instead making all the winning plays in the game’s final moments. Duke’s starting backcourt of Grayson Allen and Trevon Duval were dominated by the Eagles’ underrated pair of Bowman and Robinson. The former was outstanding throughout the game — logging 30 points, 10 boards and nine assists — while the latter was deadly from deep (5-of-5 from three-point range), including two late dagger threes.

Boston College came into the season excited to finally have an ACC-caliber frontcourt player in graduate transfer Deontae Hawkins, but he was lost for the season last week with a knee injury. That unfortunate occurrence has resulted in the Eagles’ backcourt once again needing to lead the offense, but the good news is that Robinson and Bowman appear to be up to that challenge. The North Carolina natives have both raised their offensive ratings significantly this year — Robinson from 97.1 to 112.4; Bowman from 104.5 to 111.7 — and their poise shone through in this weekend’s game-winning moments against Duke.

Mike Krzyzewski and forward Marvin Bagley III (35) are escorted off the court after being defeated by the Boston College Eagles at Conte Forum. (Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

After the game, Mike Krzyzewski mentioned several times that his young team “has a lot to learn” and Saturday’s loss served to magnify some of the Blue Devils’ weaknesses. The most glaring area of concern for Krzyzewski is on the defensive end. After allowing Boston College to score 1.20 points per possession, the Blue Devils’ currently rank 69th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. Granted, the Eagles’ red-hot outside shooting (16-of-35 3FG) was abnormal, but six of Duke’s 12 opponents have managed against it better than the national average of 1.03 PPP. Perhaps more practice time for the second-least experienced team in college basketball will remedy the situation — Duke plays only three games over the next 27 days — but the Blue Devils must improve at defending ball screen action because switching everything has created mismatches that several teams have easily exploited.

Duke leads the nation in offensive efficiency but sometimes forgets how it got there. The obvious strength of the team is in the talented low post duo of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter, but the Blue Devils hoisted 30 shots from behind the arc on Saturday while Bagley and Carter received limited touches. Given all its youth, Duke will certainly improve as the year wears on, but will it be enough for a run at the Final Four come March? To get to San Antonio, the young Blue Devils will need to change their mindset. When your focus is solely on outscoring an opponent, sometimes — as we saw on Saturday — the opponent gets hot and simply outscores you.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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