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Toppin Off: A Popovic Problem

A great weekend is spoiled by the injury.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 13 High Point at Boston College Photo by Mark Box/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Well last week was a lot of fun – back-to-back wins has the Eagles above .500 again and with their first win in South Bend since January 11, 1997 (which, I should stress again, is the week I was born). But the one black mark was the announced loss of C Nik Popovic indefinitely due to back spasms. Popovic had been playing one of his worst stretches of basketball, scoring single digit times in three of the last four games. For comparison, that’s as many one-digit games he had in all of last year. To me it seems pretty likely that his play was affected by the injury. I suppose its good that he passed the 1000-point mark against Eastern Washington a few weeks back.

But in addition too the disappearance of his production, Nik Popovic’s injury has highlighted one of the more concerning things about the program that I’ve noticed about the program under Jim Christian: the roster management. The Eagles have one player who can play the 5-position on the roster in Luka Kraljevic. And while I will be the first to admit that Luka played very admirably against Notre Dame on Saturday, the thought of him at center for the foreseeable future doesn’t fill me with confidence. And with the rebounding woes recently, the Eagles can’t afford to lose any size at such a thin position. JC Reyes going to Nevada is really hurting right now.

But even if Reyes was on the team now, he’d be gone next year. So Popovic’s injury sheds light on how woeful the future roster of Eagle’s center looks. Aside from Kraljevic, the only big man is incoming commit Justin VanderBaan, a three star 7-footer from Northbridge. That’s a shaky at best rotation and one has to think that Jim Christian (or whoever is coaching next year) will be trawling the grad transfer market for a big.

Unless BC wants to play small going forward, with Mitchell or Hamilton at center. Which would be surprising because I don’t think either of those guys could play a more than a few minutes at that position, nor are either at their best. And it would create weird lineups as you shift everyone down a position (How weird would spacing be in a Thornton-Heath-Hamilton-Hamilton-Mitchell lineup?).

Ultimately, Luka will get some serious playtime in the coming weeks and Jim Christian will have to get creative with his gameplans. Ultimately, it’s just managing a problem he’s responsible for.

Also – want to recognize a great performance this week: Steffon Mitchell. He put up a casual 15pt-13reb-5stl night and two three pointers against Albany. That’s his 3rd highest output ever and most since his freshman year. He’d been getting some bad bounces and unlucky rim-outs on the offensive end this season, so it was good to see them go the other way. I think if he can get a streak of solid performances together it’ll really build his confidence for the season, and he could finally become the player we all hope he can be.