by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)
All injuries are bad, but Jared Swopshire's knee injury against Iowa on Saturday looked worse than most. Northwestern's starting forward couldn't put pressure on his right leg at all, and on Tuesday we received word of what most already expected: Swopshire will miss the rest of the season after getting arthroscopic knee surgery.
The release is linked above, and here's Bill Carmody's statement from it:
"We all feel badly for Jared that he won't be able to play out the remainder of his final collegiate season. He has been a terrific addition to the program, both on and off the court. He was enjoying a very productive year and was playing his most consistent basketball of the season when the injury occurred. There is every indication that he'll experience a full recovery."
First off, you have to feel bad for Swopshire. He transferred to NU from Louisville to play more in his final season, and now he won't be able to finish out the year.
Swopshire didn't have a great start to the season and received criticism for his lack of aggressiveness in the non-conference slate. However, he's arguably been NU's best player — at least the second best player — during Big Ten season. As the release states, he started all 24 games and ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 7.5 rebounds per game in conference play. He's also averaging more rebounds per game (6.7 overall) than any other NU player since Evan Eschmeyer's 10.1 rebounds per game in 1998-99, which is actually kind of alarming, but we'll save that for another day.
So what does NU have to replace? The biggest things the Wildcats will miss are Swopshire's rebounding and defensive abilities. His scoring abilities were impressive, but NU can replace that. It's going to be tough to replace what he brought on the boards and on defense, especially while Alex Olah is out with a concussion. Mike Turner hasn't been productive in either category this year and Carmody doesn't seem ready to play Nikola Cerina additional minutes, even though he certainly has the physical tools to help.
Once Olah gets back, he has to step up his game. He doesn't have Swopshire's athleticism, so it's going to be tough to ask him to replicate what Swopshire did on defense, though they play different positions, so that doesn't really fall on him. Howver, Olah must improve his rebounding and have more of a physical presence on both the offensive and defensive boards.
This is arguably the biggest injury loss NU could have had at this point in the season. Not only had Swopshire improved his offensive output tremendously, but NU lacks another player with his combination of size and athleticism, and thus lacks someone to fill his role on defense. Olah certainly has the physical tools to replace Swopshire's rebounding production, but he hasn't shown an ability to do so on the court this year and he's still out with a concussion. The bottom line: this is a big loss — yet another in a series of unfortunate injuries for the Wildcats.