Seeking 2-0 ACC Start, No. 21 Virginia Tech Travels To Boston College

Justyn Mutts and Virginia Tech could be 2-0 in the ACC after Wednesday night. (John Fleming)

Mike Young is in his fourth season at Virginia Tech. He’s got an ACC championship under his belt with two NCAA Tournament appearances. But there’s one team in the league he’s yet to beat: Boston College.

The Hokies and Eagles have played three times since Young took the job in April 2019:

Jan. 25, 2020: 61-56, VT L
Feb. 8, 2020: 77-73 (OT), VT L
Jan. 22, 2022: 68-63, VT L

The first and third meetings were in Chestnut Hill, as is Wednesday evening’s (6:30 pm ET, ACC Network). VT and BC did not meet in 2020-21 due to COVID. Their clash on Jan. 20, 2021 should’ve been played in Blacksburg, but positive COVID tests in the Eagles’ program postponed it, and in the end, it was never made up.

No. 21 Virginia Tech (11-1, 1-0 ACC) has an opportunity to inch closer to school history with a win. Only four teams – 2006-07, 2015-16, 2018-19 and 2020-21 – have started 2-0 in the ACC. Moreover, the program, which played its first game in 1909, has only started 12-1 seven different times. In the ACC area, it has occurred three times, last in 2018-19.

But as the Hokies know, getting through Boston College (6-6, 0-1 ACC) is no simple task.

The Eagles

In early November, Tech Sideline split the conference in half and published two previews of the teams around the ACC. Here’s the synopsis for Boston College:

“In year one under Earl Grant, Boston College was young and unproven. In 2022-23, the Eagles return five players with starting experience. Makai Ashton-Langford, DeMarr Langford Jr., Jaeden Zackery, TJ Bickerstaff and Quinten Post are all back. Hokie fans will be delighted to know James Karnik, who had 26 points (10-of-12) and nine rebounds in last year’s meeting in Boston, is gone. But this is a group that ended the season on a high, outing Pitt and Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament before falling to Miami (who reached the Sweet 16) in overtime in the quarterfinals.”

Mike Young has never beaten Boston College in his time at Virginia Tech. (John Fleming)

Why are the Eagles 6-6? Injuries. Ashton-Langford and Langford Jr. missed chunks of time while Post has yet to play this season. Moreover, two freshmen – Prince Aligbe and Donald Hand Jr. – haven’t been able to stay healthy, combining for just 95 total minutes.

Only two players – Zackery and Bickerstaff – have started all 12 games for BC. Four others – Mason Madsen, CJ Penha Jr., Devin McGlockton and Chas Kelley III – have appeared in every contest.

To an extent, that helps explain losses to Maine (69-64), Tarleton State (70-54) and New Hampshire (74-71, OT). Stonehill, a school from Easton, Mass. that just became a DI program this season, only lost to BC by seven on Dec. 13. And the Eagles barely snuck by Cornell (79-77), Detroit Mercy (70-66) and Rhode Island (53-49).

It’s been a rough few weeks for Grant & Co., especially on the offensive end. They currently rank 276th in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom. For perspective, the Eagles have had just three offenses ranked below 200 in their 18 years in the ACC. They’re much better defensively, however, at No. 90 in DI in adjusted defensive efficiency.

The Boston College Roster

Seven different players have started a game for Boston College this season. Three players are averaging double-digit scoring. Here’s what the rotation looks like according to points per game:

Jaeden Zackery (6-2, 215, So.): 11.3 ppg
Makai Ashton-Langford (6-3, 180, Gr.): 10.6
CJ Penha Jr. (6-7, 230, Gr.): 10.3
Devin McGlockton (6-7, 215, r-Fr.): 7.3
DeMarr Langford Jr. (6-5, 220, Jr.): 7.0
TJ Bickerstaff (6-9, 220, Sr.): 6.6
Mason Madsen (6-4, 195, Jr.): 6.6
Prince Aligbe (6-7, 225, Fr.): 6.2

Boston College has not been very good this season but could still pose some tough challenges for MJ Collins and Virginia Tech. (John Fleming)

The Eagles aren’t a good 3-point shooting team. 58.7% of their points come on 2-point baskets, which ranks 26th in the country. If/when Quinten Post (7-0, 250, Sr.) returns, that number should only increase. But they haven’t made many trips to the free throw line. On top of that, they are No. 312 in effective field goal percentage on offense.

The Hokies ranked 25th in that came category. They don’t turn the ball over either – 13.7% turnover percentage, fourth in DI – and are crazy efficient on 2-point shots (57.1%, No. 18).

The Virginia Tech defense has been good, too. The unit ranks 53rd in adjusted efficiency. Teams also don’t score much in the paint against Tech – College of Charleston’s 36 is the most this season, and it was one of five times VT allowed 30-plus.

Another important aspect: rebounding. In last year’s matchup at Conte Forum, BC outrebounded Tech by 15, 38-23. Keve Aluma grabbed eight boards but no one else had more than three for VT while Bickerstaff (10) and James Karnik (nine) dominated. The Eagles had 36 points in the paint to the Hokies’ 26, too.

Mylyjael Poteat and Lynn Kidd should play big roles for Virginia Tech in this kind of game. They provide depth on the interior, which is where Boston College will attack the most considering its poor shooting from behind the arc. Playing good defense inside and crashing the glass should decide Wednesday night’s game.

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