With conference play heating up and teams looking towards the NCAA Tournament, the Selection Committee and their criteria begin to come up in discussion when talking about seedings and bubble teams. One of the main points that is bound to be argued is the effect that injuries have had on various teams. National title contenders, as well as teams just looking to get into the Big Dance, have been hit by the injury bug on more than one occasion. Here is a breakdown of how the key injuries have affected their respective teams:
The most well-known injury in college basketball this season resides in Villanova (yes, Villanova is a city). Curtis Sumpter was expected to be an All-Big East forward for the Wildcats, but he tore his ACL (again) right before the season began. Last year, Villanova was able to go to the Sweet Sixteen and nearly beat North Carolina without Sumpter (he was out with yet another injury). This season, the Wildcats are one of the best teams in the country, with only losses to West Virginia and Texas on their resume. However, I don't think that Villanova can make the Final Four without Sumpter in their lineup. He gives them the interior option all championship teams need in order to make a run. There is a possibility he will return in February if he feels that the Wildcats can win the National Championship. Stay tuned.
One of the best big men in the Big Ten going into the season, D.J. White, has not had an opportunity to demonstrate that. He has had two foot injuries so far, and the second might keep him out the rest of the season. White has only been able to play in five games after missing the first seven and the past two. The Hoosiers were 5-0 with White, and are only 6-3 without him. He gave Indiana a solid inside presence next to Marco Killingsworth, one of the best post players in the country. White was averaging about 9 points, 6 boards, and 1.5 blocks in only 18 minutes per game. He will be re-evaluated in late February to see if he will finish the season or take a medical redshirt.
Texas has four of the best players in the Big 12 in their starting lineup. When one or two of those guys are missing, the Longhorns suffer. That is exactly what happened against Duke and Tennessee, the lone two losses for Texas. Brad Buckman only played 7 minutes against Duke and then also missed the Tennessee game, while Daniel Gibson only played 9 minutes against Tennessee. Granted, the Longhorns probably wouldn't have defeated Duke even if Buckman played, but his loss was larger than most people think. Buckman gives Texas an inside-outside scorer who is also a very good rebounder. The lack of both Buckman and Gibson likely cost them the Tennessee game. With both players back and seemingly healthy, the Longhorns are back on track for a Final Four run.
Already a disappointment about midway through the season, the Crimson Tide received even more bad news: All-Conference forward Chuck Davis tore his ACL and is out for the season. However, in a surprising turn of events, previously 7-6 Alabama is 2-0 since his injury, with road wins over Auburn and Kentucky. The game that Davis was injured in, he only played 7 minutes, and 'Bama lost by 10 at home to Mississippi. Even though it may seem like the Crimson Tide has began a bit of turnaround, they are much better off with Davis in the lineup. He is one of the most dominant post players in the country. He and fellow post player Jermareo Davidson formed a very difficult interior tandem to stop.
One of the more overlooked injuries this season was the torn ACL of Creighton star Nate Funk. Possibly the best player in the Missouri Valley Conference, Funk was a key part in the success of the Blue Jays' over the past few seasons. He played the first four games of the season (Creighton went 3-1), then missed the next 5 games with a shoulder injury (4-1). He tried to come back for 2 games (0-2), but then decided to shut it down for the rest of the season (4-0 since then). All in all, the Blue Jays are 3-3 with him and 8-1 without him. Funk is a tremendous all-around player and one that Creighton needs if they had hopes of winning a game in the NCAA Tournament. He helped them almost pull off a win over West Virginia in the first round last season, but he won't be around to do it this year.
The Bruins are, by far, the team most snake-bitten by injuries this season. Every week, it seems like another play is hurt with a different injury. First off, Josh Shipp missed the first 11 games of the season after undergoing a hip procedure. He came back to start four games, but now has decided to sit out the rest of the season as a result of his ailing hip. Some consider Shipp UCLA's best all-around player. Next up, Cedric Bozeman. He is likely out for the season after tearing cartilage in his left shoulder. Bozeman was a versatile player that created match-up problems. Star point guard Jordan Farmar has been hampered with various injuries the entire season, most recently a sprained ankle. Senior post players Ryan Hollins and Michael Fey have also missed several games due to a strained groin and sprained ankle, respectively. I'm not done. Alfred Aboya, whose role was expected to increase with the glut of injuries, sprained his knee in last week's game against Washington, and could miss extended time. He has already had surgery on both of his knees. Finally, Lorenzo Mata, who had been improving over the past few games, is going to miss at least six weeks with an injured knee. That makes 7 players for UCLA who have missed games due to injuries. When everyone on the team is healthy, the Bruins are a team that could make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. However, with absolutely no frontcourt depth anymore, they might have some difficulty in March.
The Tigers, who have been one of top teams in the country all season, might be even higher in the rankings if not for an injury to Darius Washington. He has been hampered by a right thigh bruise nearly the entire season and has had to miss 2 games as a result. Starting center Kareem Cooper also has missed 5 games with an injury.
The Blue Devils can't be much better than they are right now, but another athletic wing that can score and defend would help them in March. Lucky for them, DeMarcus Nelson fits the bill. He has only played in 6 games this season because of an injured right ankle. When he comes back, he will provide depth on the perimeter.
The Bearcats already had one of the shortest benches in the country when they received even more bad news. Armein Kirkland, who seemed primed for a breakout Big East campaign, tore his ACL and was lost for the season. Cincinnati had only been using about 7 players per game, and are now even thinner on the bench. The Bearcats now basically have four small guards, one wing, and three inside players. That's not the recipe for a successful conference season.
It looks like the most damaging injury in all of college basketball has taken place at Larry Bird's alma mater. David Moss was looking like a top candidate for Missouri Valley Conference player of the year, and the Sycamores were 8-1 with a win over Indiana. Then, in the middle of a game at Missouri State, Moss was injured only 8 minutes into the game. Indiana State is 0-6 without Moss, including the Missouri State contest. He is not expected back until late January at the earliest.
Even though the Boilermakers were not expected to make a run at the NCAA Tournament, an injury to three of their key players did not help their case. Before the season even began, guard David Teague, one of the best scorers in the Big Ten, was lost for the season. Then, only 5 games in, Carl Landry, an All-Big Ten forward, was also lost for the season. To make matters worse, Nate Minnoy, who had been emerging as a forward with the injuries, tore his ACL recently and is also gone for the season. With those three players back next season, Purdue may be a sleeper in the conference.
Other Key Injuries