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Sunday, February 27, 2011
BC hoop team still has work to do

By Jack McCluskey

On Tuesday, the Boston College men's basketball team had roughly 50-50 odds of making the NCAA tournament. After its 73-64 home loss to Miami on Wednesday, those odds shrank to a little better than one in three.

In Joe Lunardi’s Friday update of Bracketology, BC had moved from one of the “last four in” to one of the “first four out” of the tourney.

Clearly, the Eagles are living dangerously if they want to make the Big Dance.

Reggie Jackson & Co. did good work on Saturday. BC traveled to Charlottesville, Va., to play the Virginia Cavaliers, without a road win since beating South Carolina on New Year’s Day. Coach Steve Donahue mixed up the starting lineup that was blown away by the Hurricanes, inserting Corey Raji and senior walk-on John Cahill into the first five in place of Josh Southern and Danny Rubin.

The new-look lineup started slowly: Jackson recorded the Eagles’ first points of the afternoon on a dunk nearly five and a half minutes into the game. That the junior guard got BC on the board is fitting, as the ACC’s third-most prolific scorer (averaging 18.4 points per game) put the Eagles on his back Saturday.

Jackson was clearly disgusted with the fight he and his teammates put forth against the Hurricanes. “It was a poor effort,” he said after the game.

There would be no repeat. Jackson finished 10-of-16 from the field (including 3-of-6 from 3-point range), scored 25 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, dished out 4 assists, snagged 2 steals and coughed up just 3 turnovers in Charlottesville.

The 25 points were a game high, constituting nearly 40 percent of the Eagles’ total offense in their 63-44 win and very nearly matched the total production of the Virginia starters (who combined for 30).

Completing the season sweep of the Cavaliers won’t put the Eagles in the NCAAs, but it won’t hurt. The win bumped the Eagles’ road record to 3-6, their conference record to 7-7 and their overall mark to 17-11. Next up is a visit to Blacksburg, Va., Tuesday for a game with Virginia Tech.

While the Eagles were busy dispatching the Cavaliers, the Hokies were doing work of their own Saturday. Newly anointed No. 1 Duke was in town, and Virginia Tech sent the Blue Devils home with their second ACC loss of the season, 64-60.

That win likely bumps the Hokies off the bubble into “solidly in” territory and ups the ante for the Eagles on Tuesday. If the visitors can beat the team that just beat the best team in the country, that win might carry some weight with the committee on Selection Sunday.

Of course, the Hokies’ win over the Blue Devils could be chalked up to a fluke. Before beating Duke (RPI: 4), Virginia Tech (48) was swept by in-state rival Virginia (143) this season. If the Eagles (51) can win in Blacksburg on Tuesday, the Hokies will have been swept by BC as well, which the transitive property tells us makes sense (BC swept Virginia, and Virginia swept Virginia Tech, so BC should sweep Virginia Tech).

Bracket implications aside, one fact remains: The Eagles needed to win Saturday and they did.

Now they need to win Tuesday, and again next Sunday at home versus Wake Forest. And in all likelihood they need to follow that with a triumph in the ACC tournament to safely secure a berth in the Big Dance.