Louisville-Boston College preview: Cards look to start 2021 with ACC road win

Louisville Cardinals (6-1, 1-0) at Boston College Eagles (2-6, 0-2)

Game Time: 12:04 p.m.

Location: Silvio O. Conte Forum: Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Television: Regional Sports Networks (Fox Sports South in Louisville)

Announcers: Tom Werme (play-by-play) and Brian Oliver (analyst)

Favorite:

Officials: Pat Driscoll, Jerry Heater, Mark Schnur

Series: Louisville leads, 8-4

Last Meeting: Louisville won, 86-69, on Jan. 29, 2020 in Chestnut Hill

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Boston College’s Season to Date:

Relevant Videos:

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About Boston College:

It’s difficult to argue that there’s an ACC team off to a worse start in 2020-21 than Boston College. The Eagles have the fewest wins of any team in the conference (2) and are one of just two teams in the league entering the heart of bulk of conference play with an overall losing record (3-5 Notre Dame is the other).

The majority of the Eagles’ issues so far this season have come on the defensive end, where they’re allowing opponents to shoot 50.0 percent from the field. That’s the worst mark in the ACC and puts them at 318th nationally in field goal percentage defense. BC is also allowing opponents to shoot 59.3 percent from inside the arc, good for 323rd in D-I and the worst mark of any team from a power six conference.

Still, there is some cause for concern if you’re a Louisville fan looking forward to Saturday’s game.

For starters, BC has played its best basketball of the season in its last two games. They defeated Maine 78-62 on Dec. 22, and then nearly upset NC State in a hard-fought 79-76 loss earlier this week (Dec. 30). The Eagles’ ability to go nuts from the outside is also concerning. Boston College gets 36.7 percent of its points from the three-point shot, and as a team ranks 34th in the country in three-point attempts per field goal attempts. Nearly half of their field goal attempts (45.8 percent) come from beyond the arc. That’s a recipe that should be good for at least one head-scratching upset this conference season.

Though the team has never been a real contender in the ACC, the Jim Christian era at BC has featured a number of extremely gifted guards. The latest backcourt star for the Eagles is junior Wynston Tabbs, who is finally healthy after a pair of injury-prone seasons to start his college career. Tabbs enters Saturday ranked 13th in the ACC in scoring at 15.6 points per game, and fourth in three-pointer made (2.4 per game). He’s scored in double figures in all eight of Boston College’s games so far this season, and is hitting the three at a 42.3 percent clip. He’s the guy Louisville needs to keep from going nuts if they want to avoid an upset.

Sophomore guard Jay Heath is the other player Louisville defenders will need to consistently locate on the perimeter. He has taken at least six three-pointers in every game but one this season, and has scored 16 or more points in three of BC’s last four games. Heath was 4-of-8 from three and scored 16 points against the Cards in last season’s meeting.

Lehigh transfer James Karnik, a native of England, is the team’s only other double figure scorer at 10.2 ppg. The 6’9 senior has helped the Eagles immensely since receiving a waiver from the NCAA on Dec. 3. He’s still coming off the bench, but with Steffon Mitchell’s (6.8 ppg/6.9 rpg) play being erratic at best, Karnik has been BC’s most consistently reliable post presence on both ends of the floor since he was declared eligible.

Makai Ashton-Langford, a transfer from Providence who sat out last season after playing two years for the Friars, is probably Jim Christian’s most naturally gifted player outside of Tabbs. He’s athletic, he’s sneaky on defense (team-leading 15 steals), and he’s been at his best this season against the most talented teams on the Eagles’ schedule (Villanova, NC State, St. John’s). Unlike Tabbs and Heath, he’s not a consistent outside shooter, which means Cardinal defenders should play off him and focus on cutting off his attempts at straight line drives.

What Boston College does well: Play up-tempo, shoot a ton of threes, have Wynston Tabbs and Jay Heath in the backcourt, block shots, make two-point shots.

What Boston College does not do well: Defend two-point shots, defend three-point shots, take quality three-point shots, make free-throws, share the ball effectively, take care of the ball.

Notable:

—Louisville has started with at least a 6-1 record through seven games for the 10th time in the last 13 years. The Cardinals have won at least seven of their first eight games on nine occasions over the last 13 years.

—Louisville has won eight of its last 10 games in its first game of a new calendar year. The Cardinals fell to No. 18 Florida State in last year’s first game of 2020 on Jan. 6.

—Louisville is 6-1 against Boston College since joining the ACC in 2014-15. The one loss came at Conte Forum in February of 2019. That snapped a six-game U of L win streak versus BC.

—Carlik Jones’ next assist will be the 500th of his college career

—Louisville has made 81.3 percent of its free throws in the final five minutes of its games (26-of-32).

—Boston College is 9-9 all-time in games played on Jan. 2, and 0-1 in ACC games played on the date.

—Boston College is 59-68 all-time in ACC games at Conte Forum.

—Carlik Jones is the only player in the ACC to rank among the top 20 in each of scoring (7th in the ACC, 16.7 ppg), rebounding (18th, 6.2 rpg) and assists (2nd, 5.0 apg).

—Louisville assistant coach Dino Gaudio had a 3-1 record vs. Boston College in the three seasons when he was head coach at Wake Forest (2007-10).

—Since 2004, Louisville is 124-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

—Louisville is 22-0 over the last two seasons when scoring at least 71 points, including 4-0 this season

—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 155 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. Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas are the others.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 73, Boston College 67

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