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Next Up: Boston College

Time: 12:00 pm || Venue: Conte Forum || Video: ESPN

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NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Duke
Jan 7, 2017; Durham, NC, USA; Boston College Eagles guard Ky Bowman (0) drives to the basket against Duke Blue Devils center Marques Bolden (20) during the first half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Next up is first up as Duke and BC kick off ACC play early.

Duke is obviously going to be favored. Boston College has a superb backcourt though and that means they’ll have a shot in every game. Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman could go for 50-60 points on any given night. If the Eagles get 25 from the rest of the team and control the pace they can be in any game this season.

Things would have been much easier if Deontae Hawkins hadn’t blown his knee out at Nebraska though.

Hawkins, a grad transfer from Illinois State, had emerged as BC’s best frontcourt player and a team leader. It’s going to be really difficult to replace him. Coach Jim Christian may turn to Steffon Mitchell or Johncarlos Reyes.

Reyes is a junior but he’s never had much of a statistical impact. He is 6-10 though and that could be useful against Duke.

Mitchell is a 6-8 freshman. He hit double figures against South Carolina State (21) and Sacred Heart (13). He’s a pretty good rebounder though, pulling down 7.0 per game.

Mitchell got the start against Hartford, the only game BC’s played since Hawkins went down, but only scored two points (he did get nine boards).

Points could be an issue though.

BC got no points from the bench against Hartford, two rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and four fouls, including three by Reyes - in six minutes.

That’s a problem for Duke too actually.

Wendell Carter has developed a tendency to get in foul trouble and he’s not entirely sure why. He told the N&O “to be honest, I can’t even answer that. I just get caught up in the wrong situation at the wrong time.”

Foul trouble has limited his minutes. Duke’s guards get the most minutes with Trevon Duval and Grayson Allen pulling 31.5 and 31.4 mpg respectively. Gary Trent and Marvin Bagley are getting 30.9 and 30.8.

And Carter?

24.3.

He had three fouls against Elon, four against Michigan State, Texas and Florida and fouled out at Indiana.

As Dean Smith was prone to say: “freshmen!”

Things have changed his El Deano’s heyday though. Carter is a freshman and he has to learn to not foul but he’s 6-10 and 259 and is averaging 12.8 points and 8.9 rebounds. He has range to the three point line and is unusually agile for a guy his size. He’ll figure it out and be a lottery pick next summer.

His freshmen frontcourt mate, Bagley, has been a load too. Actually he’s been a sensation.

Bagley has racked up a double-double in every game save two: Michigan State, where he got poked in the eye and Furman where he just didn’t get there (he still had 24 points and eight rebounds).

David Robinson has compared to the great Tim Duncan and Coach K, struggling to explain his talents, resorted to a fast double-tap on the podium.

“However you write that,” the GOAT said.

He’s right though. Bagley kills people on his second and third jump to get a rebound.

Boston College’s main inside player, post-Hawkins, is Nik Popovic. If he manages to deal with Duke’s two-headed monster okay then he still has Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier coming off the bench. And Popovic has had foul troubles of his own, with four against Maine, fouling out against Sacred Heart and picking up four against LaSalle and Nebraska.

Which brings us back to BC’s strength, the backcourt.

Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, from Raleigh and Havelock respectively, are both really, really good.

If you let them run wild, particularly Bowman, it’s a big gamble.

Last year, Bowman was periodically a sensation but erratic. This year he’s hit double figures in every game, is averaging 5.4 assists and is very, very dangerous.

You may remember that he originally planned to play football at UNC, if memory serves, as a receiver.

We’ve wondered at times what it’s like for him as he runs downcourt, now quarterback instead of receiver, but still weaving his way through other guys to score. He’s a blast to watch, most of all on the break.

For his part, the 6-6 Robinson had two poor offensive outings, against SC State and Sacred Heart, but he’s capable of an offensive explosion at any time.

And then there’s Jordan Chatman who is a freak.

Why? Because he’s a grad transfer, in law school, and eligibility-wise he’s a sophomore. Expect him to finish law school in January, start on his MBA in January and finish his MD in summer school. He’s a great student.

He did a Mormon mission in Taiwan, so given his discipline, we expect he also speaks Taiwanese and possibly Mandarin as well.

And last year, as you may recall, he absolutely went off on Virginia Tech, scoring 30 and shooting 9-11 from three point range.

The primary danger from BC is the backcourt of Bowman and Robinson but you overlook this guy at your own risk. He’s incredibly smart, incredibly disciplined and capable of bursts of greatness.

The Eagles have one other significant problem though and that’s depth. It’s worse without Hawkins but now it’s much worse.

Against 3-6 Hartford, all the starters had to go at least 31 minutes. Popovic and Chatman did 31, Mitchell did 35, Robinson went 36 and Bowman 38.

The bench in that game was Von Baker Jr., son of the former NBA star who is at least a couple of years away from being a reliable player, fellow freshman Luka Kraljevic a 6-10 Slovenian, Reyes and freshman Avery Wilson, a stocky (220) 6-3 guard from Georgia.

One more thing to keep in mine here. Whenever the Show comes to town, people show up. That was true for Babe Ruth, the Bulls, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson before he lost his mind, and it’s true for Duke basketball.

BC rarely has a big crowd. They’ll have one Saturday. It’ll be a challenging environment for a team with so many freshmen in key roles.

We’ve said before we think that Christian is a good coach. He’s just been in an insanely difficult situation.

That said, he’s always had his teams ready to compete even when things have been very difficult. His players have always tried and usually played to the best of their abilities.

Winning is the major hallmark of success but teaching your guys to always do their best and to never stop trying deserves respect too.

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