Boston College basketball: Eagles remarkable season continues with NIT bid

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Shelton Mitchell
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Shelton Mitchell /

The Boston College Eagles men’s basketball team continues their remarkable turnaround in 2017-18 with an opening round NIT game against Western Kentucky.

If the Big Dance is considered the prom, then the Boston College Eagles men’s basketball team is going to the homecoming dance in the NIT.

While not reaching the ultimate goal of the NCAA tournament is a disappointment, the NIT is prestigious in its own right. In extending their season, the Eagles (19-15) will be making their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Boston College picked up two wins in last week’s ACC tourney before ultimately falling 90-82 to the Clemson Tigers in the quarterfinals.

The wins might have very well propelled the Eagles to the fifth-seed of the Upper Right Bracket. They will open at the home of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (24-10) on 3/13 at 8 pm (EST).

Western Kentucky lost in the Conference USA tournament finals, falling to the Marshall Thundering Herd 67-66.

The winner of the Eagles and Hilltoppers will face the winner of USC/UNC Asheville.

Boston College Eagles

In the ACC tournament, the trio of Jerome Robinson, Ky Bowman, and Jordan Chatman continued to pace the Eagles. But it was the showings of Nik Popovic and Steffon Mitchell that nearly helped propel Boston College into the semifinals.

Popovic, a sophomore, has shown great improvement as the season has progressed. He averaged 9.9 points during the season, upping that to nearly 15 points per game in the ACC tourney.

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Mitchell, a freshman, also proved his worth doing what he was best at this season: rebounding. He led the team in the regular season with 8.2 rebounds and averaged 11.7 in the ACC tourney. Mitchell nearly had a double-double in the Clemson loss.

Bowman averaged 24.3 points in the tourney. He and Robinson combined to average 38.4 points of the Eagles’ 77 per game this season.

Key games: Wins over Duke and Florida State; 1-point loss to Virginia, and a 20-point loss to Providence

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Two seniors lead the way for Western Kentucky, including a forward in Justin Johnson who will keep Popovic and Mitchell busy all night. Johnson led the Hilltoppers in points (15.3) and rebounds (9.6). He is shooting 51.1% from the field this season.

In the backcourt, senior guard Darius Thompson is very similar to Bowman. Thompson won’t fire up the three-pointer as often, but he scored 14 points per game while adding 4.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

Western Kentucky averages 78 points per game, just one of many team stats very similar to Boston College. The Hilltoppers average one less rebound (37-36) and one less turnover (13-12) than the Eagles do. Western Kentucky holds the advantage in field goal percentage (49.3% to 45.2%) while Boston College makes nearly three more 3-pointers per game.

Key games: Wins over Marshall and Purdue (+4); One-point loss to Wisconsin and an eight-point loss to Villanova.


Games in the NIT –much like bowl games in football — can be hard to judge. In this particular matchup, I believe both teams are excited about their season to be continuing.

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It’s going to come down to how well Boston College defends the interior. If they do that and all five starters contribute, then the Eagles eke out the road victory (despite a horrendous road record).

Boston College 74 Western Kentucky 71