The Boston College Eagles will take on the Duke Blue Devils in what amounts to a must-win game far too early in the Eagles' season.
After suffering home defeats to Harvard, Rhode Island, and Maine, the tournament resume that the Eagles have created is a version head coach Al Skinner would just as soon drag to the recycle bin. Having never beaten the Blue Devils in four tries at Cameron Indooor makes Wednesday evening's task that much more difficult.
BC has struggled quite a bit shooting the ball, ranking 11th in the ACC with a 44.8 FG percentage and dead last from downtown at 31.6 percent. At the forefront of this issue is junior forward Rakim Sanders who is playing in only his ninth game after missing several weeks due to an ankle injury.
Sanders is shooting 39.3 percent from the floor including an abysmal 3-for-10 performance in the loss to Maine highlighted by a last-second missed layup. Sanders has had explosive games during his career—he scored 22 in an upset at then-No. 1 UNC last January—and will need to flash that part of his game to keep BC in it.
Junior forward Joe Trapani leads the team with 15.1 points per game and was instrumental in the Eagles' victory over Duke last season when he scored 20 and grabbed seven boards to go along with five blocks.
Trapani will also need to mirror that type of performance for BC to stay in the game in Durham. Junior forward Corey Raji, sixth in the ACC in rebounds will also do his part to clean the glass, the one area where BC has excelled by leading the ACC in rebound margin thus far.
With BC ranking near the bottom of shooting and scoring statistics as well as near the bottom of team defense, it is no surprise they find themselves in trouble at the halfway mark with a full conference schedule still in front of them.
Ultimately, BC has lacked leadership on the floor and with Skinner often in a passive role on the sidelines allowing his team to play through tough stretches, that type of leadership in invaluable. That's where Reggie Jackson comes in...
The sophomore guard with the hall-of-fame name has demonstrated his all-around ability this season by putting up 13.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per contest—good numbers for a 6'3" guard. But ultimately, BC has been a ship without a rudder and Jackson needs to play that role.
They have waited far too long to get Sanders back from injury and even longer to get back in sync when he returned. Certainly, Jackson's talent alone will not be the trump card for this team to get back on track, not in the ACC. Despite only being a sophomore, he has shown the intangibles that will make him the leader of this team—intangibles that his predecessors Jared Dudley, Craig Smith, and Troy Bell all displayed by their second seasons.
It may not happen tonight against a 13-2 Duke team that sports the No. 1 ranking in the RPI but Chestnut Hill will need to see something positive soon before this season spirals into NIT land or worse.
This is not where Eagles fans expected to be, not with the experience returning. But what they may not find in the final score they will hope to find in promise of a leader for this team for the remainder of the season and beyond. The ball and the fans' hopes are literally in Reggie's court.