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Next Up For Duke - Boston College

Time: 4:30 || Venue: Conte Forum || TV: RSN/ESPN3

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Dec 30, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) moves past Long Beach State 49ers forward Mason Riggins (5) in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Dec 30, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) moves past Long Beach State 49ers forward Mason Riggins (5) in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

ACC play starts in earnest this weekend, and for Duke, that means an early trip to Beantown to take on Boston College.

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As you probably know, the long-term rebuilding project at BC continues, as the Eagles had to replace a ton of guys from last year. Jim Christian brought in eight freshmen and Idy Diallo redshirted last year after an injury.

Darryl Hicks is the sophomore class and Garland Owens the junior.

Steve Perpligia, who was recently put on scholarship, is a senior.

But the Eagles do have a pretty competent big man in Dennis Clifford, who has had a lot of injuries in his career, and grad student transfer Eli Carter, who has been a godsend for BC.

Carter, who came up from Florida after transferring from Florida, has kept BC alive during a tough transition. So far he's averaging 17.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.5 apg and a little more than one steal.

On the down side, he's not shooting very well - just 39.8% overall and 29.1% from three point range - but he's been the man for BC, most recently against New Hampshire, where he really was superb and not least of all in the clutch.

Clifford had a bright future out of high school but has really struggled to stay healthy. He's able to play significant minutes this year and last and so far is averaging 9 ppg and 7.3 rpg, both improvements over last year.

The Eagles are also finding freshman and Raleigh native Jerome Robinson useful: the 6-5 guard is pulling 32 mpg and averaging 12.2 ppg, 4.4 boards, 3.1 apg and 1.4 steals. Worth noting: he's not much of a Duke fan.

Fellow frosh AJ Turner (6-7) is also a factor, although his stats are fairly pedestrian: 6.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 1.1 apg.

As we said, BC has been rebuilding for several years with little success. Steve Donahue had some notable victories and a few good players, but never got over the hump.

Last year, Jim Christian inherited an experienced team with a ton of seniors and managed to improve the record from 8-24 to 13-19.

And despite a talent gap and a coaching transition, they were competitive: Pitt  won by just one, in overtime, Miami by just four, Harvard by seven in overtime, Syracuse by eight, Miami by three in double overtime. They really weren't all that far from a winning record.

We think Jim Christian is going to emerge as a pretty good coach, and certainly he's got a solid staff. When Maryland left the ACC, ace recruiter Scott Spinelli bailed out and hooked on at BC. Stan Heath, formerly at Ball State and South Florida, is an assistant as well. Bill Wuczynski has been with Christian since his time at Ohio.

Christian played for Ralph Willard in high school and for two years for Rick Pitino at Boston University before transferring to Rhode Island.

Christian did a solid job at Kent State, where he had a .699 winning percentage. Taking on basketball at TCU was probably a mistake. He finished 56-34 there and then got back to his earlier level when he took the Ohio job, winning .700 of his games.

For Duke, this is an interesting game as the Blue Devils continue to adjust to the absence of Amile Jefferson.

In the last two outings, Duke has surrounded Marshall Plumlee with four perimeter players and used quickness and three point shooting to open the court for penetration.

It's what Duke always does - find the best possible use of personnel - but it carries potential risks and inherent weaknesses.

Duke has to rely on Plumlee to stay out of foul trouble and everyone else for that matter. There just aren't enough players to go very deep into the bench.

It's also the first ACC road trip for Brandon Ingram, Derryck Thornton, Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter. And as usual, Duke is likely to draw a solid crowd.

So while Duke is obviously favored, as in every game (think Virginia Tech at Cassell last year), there are no guarantees. We've been impressed with Christian's coaching and how well his players respond. The Eagles might not win, the odds are very much against that, but BC will show up and play hard. And that gives you, at a minimum, a puncher's chance.