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Next Up - Boston College

The Eagles visit Cameron Saturday, but this team is much better than its predecessor.

Dec 31, 2014; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor (15) dunks the ball against the Wofford Terriers in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Dec 31, 2014; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor (15) dunks the ball against the Wofford Terriers in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Next up for Duke is Boston College and while Duke is heavily favored, this is not the same BC team we saw last year. Jim Christian is doing a really nice job in his first season with Boston College.

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Last year, with the core of this team, Steve Donahue managed eight wins; Christian has seven already.

Keep in mind that Donahue had Ryan Anderson, who was at times dominant last year, and Joe Rahon, who started and was a reasonable guard.

Both transferrred.

On the other hand, Christian has the services of big man Dennis Clifford, who has been injury prone during his BC career.

He also has Notre Dame transfer Alex Dragicevich and grad students Dmitri Batten, who came from Old Dominion, and Aaron Brown, who graduated from Southern Miss after playing two years first at Temple.

Brown has turned out to be a real asset; he's BC's leading scorer at 16.1ppg.

Clifford and Batten are both getting starters minutes.

In fact, only Olivier Hanlan and Patrick Heckman return from last year's starting lineup.

Normally in a transition year, that'd be a problem, but Clifford gives BC a big man and Brown gives Hanlan a wingman, Batten too. You can't double team any of them.

Clifford is still getting back into the groove. He's BC's only experienced  big man - KC Caudill is still around, but instead of losing weight he's gained it and now weighs 300. He's getting about a minute per game.

The Eagles do offer Will Magarity (6-11, 240 lb. soph from Stockholm) and 6-11 Idy Diallo, same weight, who is a freshman. He is apparently redshirting this year.

Lonnie Jackson is also back; the guard is coming off an injury and has only played three games to date.

In essence, if only for a year (BC has eight seniors), Christian has rebuilt BC as a competitive team. There's no guarantee that the Eagles will have a winning season, but to date, BC has been competitive in every game. Given last year, given the transfers, who expected that?

It's early, but at this point, Christian has to be a candidate for ACC Coach Of The Year.

On Saturday, though, he has to deal with his toughest opponent to date.

Duke has managed to combine three scintillating freshmen - center Jahlil Okafor, forward Justise Winslow and point guard Tyus Jones - with a group of experienced returnees to give the Blue Devils a team that, in most years, would be the favorite for the national championship.

What makes this team so good is that everyone has embraced a role. Quinn Cook is happy at shooting guard. Amile Jefferson is at his natural position and playing brilliantly, profiting from the attention Okafor is getting.

Matt Jones and Rasheed Sulaimon  come in and there's no dropoff at guard and arguably a pickup on defense. And Marshall Plumlee comes in for Okafor and provides a huge jolt of energy and, again, arguably improved defense.

Grayson Allen is the last man in the rotation currently, but he's willing to play defense too and has shown a really fine outside shot.

The programs, therefore, are on two different levels currently.

As we point out from time to time though, you can only have five guys on the court at one time and five guys who are really committed to working hard and together can overcome a lot of disadvantages and obstacles.

That spirit of the possible, which does not exist the same way in every sport, is a big part of what makes basketball such a great game.

That's why you can never rule out an upset, even in a game like this where Duke will be so heavily favored.