Louisville Cardinals (17-3, 7-1) vs. Boston College Eagles (10-10, 4-5)
Game Time: 9 p.m.
Location: Silvio O. Conte Forum: Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Television: ACC Network
Announcers: Steve Schlanger (play-by-play) and Dan Bonner (analyst)
Favorite: Louisville by 11.5
Officials: Bert Smith, Lee Cassell, Tony Chiazza
Series: Louisville leads, 7-4
Last Meeting: Boston College won 66-59 on Feb. 27, 2019 in Chestnut Hill
Probable Starting Lineups:
About Boston College:
Picked to finish 13th in the 15-team ACC before the start of the season, Boston College actually won its first two league games and three of its first four for the first time since 2011. The Eagles then dropped four straight, a streak they snapped with a 61-56 upset of Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Boston College’s profile is very similar to that of the Georgia Tech team Louisville faced a week ago. The Eagles typically win with defense and prefer a game played in the 60s or low 70s. Jim Christian’s team ranks 93rd in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, and just 259th in adjusted offensive efficiency.
The one thing Boston College does exceptionally well is force turnovers, particularly through steals. The Eagles turn their opponents over on 23.1 percent of their defensive possessions, the 28th-best rate in the country. BC also records a steal on 12.4 percent of their defensive possessions, the 12th-best rate in the country. This will be another night where Louisville’s guards are going to need to be especially strong with the ball.
Offensive, BC is led in scoring by Derryck Thornton’s 12.4 points per game. Thornton, who began his career at Duke and then transferred to USC before wrapping up with this season in Chestnut Hill, is also the squad’s top distributor at 3.6 assists per game. As has been the case throughout his college career, Thornton still struggles with turnovers and just generally erratic play. Still, on one of his good nights, he’s absolutely a guy who can give the Cardinal backcourt some trouble.
The player Louisville fans might need to have their eyes on the most Wednesday night is Jairus Hamilton. The 6’8 sophomore forward has been red hot in recent weeks, and is coming off a career-high 23-point performance in BC’s upset win over Virginia Tech. In that game, Hamilton knocked down 5-of-7 three-pointers, pulled down eight boards, and knocked down all four of his free-throw attempts. The versatile forward scored 12 of his points in the final 5:49 of play to seal the victory for the Eagles.
Freshman guard Jay Heath might be the most promising longterm prospect on Christian’s roster at the moment. The DC native is averaging 12.2 points per game and shooting at a solid 37.4 percent clip from beyond the arc (42 percent at home). He ranks third among ACC in freshmen in both scoring and three-pointers made. When Heath scores 15 points or more, Boston College is 6-1 this season.
Senior big man Nik Popovic has missed a ton of time this season because of a back injury, and still doesn’t look like the consistent double-double threat he’s been for most of his career. He scored 12 points in his return game against Pitt a week ago, but then played only eight minutes and scored only two points in the win over Virginia Tech three days later. Popovic had 16 and 9 in the win over Louisville last season, and 14 and 7 in the loss.
Junior forward Steffon Mitchell is an odd player in that he does everything really well outside of scoring. He is the only player in Division-I currently averaging at least 8.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.1 blocked shots per game. Mitchell is a tremendous defensive player and a tireless worker on the glass. Think of him as a slightly taller but less skilled Dwayne Sutton.
At the risk of once again relaying this information and then watching said team set the world on fire hours later, Boston College is a horrendously bad shooting team. From every level. The Eagles shoot 29.8 percent from beyond the arc (320th in D-I), 47.0 percent from inside it (259th in D-I), and 64.6 percent from the free-throw line (322nd in D-I).
BC also really struggles with turnovers (216th in turnover percentage) and has been dominated inside and on the glass by most opponents with a decent frontcourt presence. Even with Popovic back and somewhat healthy, this should be a game where Steven Enoch, Malik Williams and Sutton should be able to eat.
—Louisville’s 8-1 league record marks its best start in conference play since joining the ACC in 2014-15. The Cardinals currently sit alone in first place atop the league standings.
—Louisville hasn’t started a conference season 9-1 since its 2008-09 season in the Big East.
—Louisville is off to at least a 17-3 overall record through 20 games for the fourth time in the last seven years.
—Boston College is 13-9 overall and 2-3 in ACC play all-time in games played on January 29.
—Louisville’s current six-game ACC winning streak is tied for its longest since joining the conference.
—Louisville has made as many as nine three-pointers in a game on 11 occasions this season, including six of the last 12 games.
—Boston College’s Jairus Hamilton is the first ACC player since 2016 to shoot 76.5% and 75% from three over two consecutive games. Hamilton hit 5-of-7 threes and scored a career-high 23 points in BC’s most recent game, a 61-56 win over Virginia Tech.
—Boston College is 7-0 this season when it limits opposing offenses to 60 or fewer points, and 3-10 when opponents exceed 60 points.
—Louisville is 14-0 this season when holding opponents to 68 points or fewer, and 3-3 on the year when teams score more than 68.
—Louisville had a six-game winning streak against Boston College before last season’s 66-59 loss in Chestnut Hill.
—Louisville has held opposing teams to 37 percent shooting from the field this year, the sixth-lowest percentage among all Division I teams. Over their six-game winning streak, the Cardinals have held opposing shooters to 36.7 percent.
—Boston College is 324-184 all-time at the Silvio O. Conte Forum.
—Louisville is 15-0 when leading at halftime this season, and 2-3 when trailing at the break.
—Louisville has blocked at least one shot in 322 consecutive games.
—Boston College is 1-4 in ACC road games this season.
—Boston College is 6-1 this season when freshman Jay Heath scores at least 15 points.
—U of L enters Wednesday night ranked sixth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.370), 18th in scoring margin (+12.5), 32nd in rebound margin (+6.2) and 34th in scoring defense (62.3).
—Louisville has a 42-13 record during the month of January over the last five years (.764).
—Louisville has won 161 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
—Louisville has won 152 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.
—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 72, Boston College 60