10 Injuries to Factor into Your NCAA Bracket Picks
Tomorrow, you'll be sitting at work and maybe you'll be looking like you're doing your job, but you'll be thinking about your brackets. Let's face it, we should just call it a national holiday and end the charade. Guys like us will be hovering over charts and graphs, trying to figure out the difference between a Butler and a Bucknell.
Is Belmont or Montana a Cinderella this season? Did St. Louis get enough respect for its efforts and what the heck is a Billiken anyway? It's questions like these that we'll dig into over the next couple days, just as we'll try to figure out why most teams' first game comes in the second round.
To help you fill out your bracket and not lose to the secretary that picks based on uniform color, here's a couple injury questions that could help or hurt a number of tourney teams. I hope it helps you.
Jordan Adams, UCLA
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Ben Howland might be on the outs in Westwood, especially if he can't get deep into the tournament. That will be tougher after losing Jordan Adams to a freak injury. Adams fractured his foot on the last play of UCLA's semifinal game against Arizona. He landed awkwardly on a defensive play and went down hard.
Adams is "out for the season", which amounts to however long the Bruins can last without him. It definitely hurts the team's depth. Normally, this kind of injury could cost eight to twelve weeks, depending on the location of the fracture and how Adams heals, which can be easily checked along the way.
The injury should have no problem healing and Adams' status going forward, whether that's back at UCLA for his sophomore year or in the NBA, should not be an issue. Adams is a premier defender that can score, so quickness is an issue, but fractures tend to heal and there's no sign that this is or will be a chronic issue.
UCLA's second round matchup against Minnesota might look good, but without Adams, this is one of the upsets that really won't be, not if you understand Adams' value. Take the Gophers, leave the cannoli.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
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Tim Hardaway Jr. has been breaking ankles all season with his quickness and ball handling. Maybe it's karma that he sprained his own ankle in the team's Big 10 loss to Wisconsin. He should be fine for an intriguing second round matchup against Nate Wolters' South Dakota State.
The loss gives Hardaway almost a week to heal up and a Friday start would help as well. While the sprain is considered minor and Hardaway himself expects to play in the first round matchup, it's tougher to say whether there will be any deficits just a week or less from the injury.
The medical staff from Michigan will have to figure out how to best prepare Hardaway for that next game. He's not a player who likes a lot of support, wearing his shoes loose. He could be taped, though an analysis of pictures throughout the year can only show that he's not wearing a laceup brace.
Expect Hardaway to play next time out, but watch to see whether he can keep the ankle from swelling and tightening up. If it does, he'll either have to make quick adjustments and hope the medical staff can have him ready for the next game or the Wolverines have a real issue.
Dorian Green, Colorado State
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Dorian Green came back on Friday, denying that he had re-sprained the ankle that was originally injured in the Rams' season finale. Green was able to play against UNLV after sitting out the Wednesday win against Fresno State. Thing is, it's clear that the ankle isn't all the way back if it wasn't a re-injury.
With a week off to heal up, Green should be better offensively and defensively, where UNLV attacked him laterally and worked hard to make him fight through screens. Green wasn't 100 percent, but he showed that he was passable. Larry Eustachy had thought that Green wouldn't play and after his performance, it's tough to say what the right decision was.
Ankle sprains like this, especially recurrent ones, are tough to manage. The Colorado State medical staff will have to figure that out, as well as help Eustachy figure out exactly how he can best be used. That makes a tough bracket even tougher, facing Mizzou and then possibly Louisville.
Erik Murphy, Florida
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Erik Murphy injured his knee in practice, but the SEC Tournament sure makes it look like it was very minor, if that. Murphy played 26 minutes in his first game back and then has helped the Gators move through to the three seed, getting a favorable bracket taking on Northwestern State and then the winner of Minnesota and UCLA. (You know already who I'm expecting to win.)
Murphy does have a history with the knee. Like many big men, the knee takes a lot of wear and tear due to the long levers of the joints. He has had surgery on the knee previously and missed time back in early February with a meniscus problem, but he's played well since returning. It's possible this is just a recurrence, something that will worry NBA scouts a lot more than it will Billy Donovan.
Murphy's knee isn't showing any deficits in running or jumping. In fact, he had a career high 12 rebounds Friday against LSU, showing the kind of plyometric jumps that often give problems for even a minor knee injury.
P.J. Hairston, North Carolina
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It takes more than eight stitches to stop P.J. Hairston, but despite 28 points in a losing effort against Miami, the Tarheels still have concerns about their star guard. All of his shooting percentages were off, for which some credit goes to Miami. The Tarheels next opponent might try to force Hairston to shoot, much in the way Miami did.
Hairston sustained the cut in Friday's game against Florida State. During a steal attempt, Hairston had the ball jammed back, pulling apart his middle and ring fingers on his left (non-shooting) hand. The skin split and required stitches to close the wound. It is painful, but not in a prime area.
Hairston will have to adjust to the injury, but he'll have some practice time to make those adjustments. Given how much he played just a day after the injury, it bodes well for the tournament.
Mike Moser, UNLV
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Mike Moser had one of the most gruesome injuries you're going to see. His dislocated elbow was thought to be a season ender when he suffered it in early December, but he's come back to be a real factor for UNLV.
The tourney committee had to take that injury into account when they gave the Runnin' Rebels a high seed, especially how they played through the conference tournament with Moser expanding his role. Moser still isn't 100 percent, but he's getting better with each game, both in health and adjusting to what he can and can't do.
If Moser can play deep minutes and pick up the rebounds and leadership role that he has through the early part of March, then he may help UNLV back to the late part of it. Look out for this team in the third round matchup against Syracuse.
Alex Abreu, Akron
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Doug Gottlieb said on the CBS Selection Show that it was as tough as it goes for Akron. The MAC Champs lost their point guard and drew tough VCU in the second round. As much as I respect Shaka Smart's team, it's not close to the blow that the Zips took losing Alex Abreu.
Abreu isn't injured; he's arrested. Abreu was arrested a week ago on drug trafficking charges and is suspended indefinitely. The team definitely took a hit without him, but managed to win the MAC tournament despite the absence. It will likely have a harder time with VCU this week than it did teams like Buffalo and Ohio.
Kevin Van Wijk, Valparaiso
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Bryce Drew has the Crusaders back in the NCAA Tournament, where he'll try to coach the team farther than he could shoot them. The Horizon League champs have a very tough draw, but they'll definitely need big man Kevin Van Wijk to show that he's past his chronic leg problems.
Van Wijk has had problems with his ankle throughout his basketball career, but seems to have overcome knee problems that plagued his conference season this year. The big man can score and rebound, giving the good shooting team an inside-outside look that can be difficult to match up with. Then again, Michigan State shouldn't have much trouble with that kind of team or really, anything like what Valpo has been able to put up.
Mathias Ward, Montana
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Montana gets a nice bid, taking on Syracuse in the second round. Seth Davis was calling for Montana as an upset special, but without Mathias Ward, I'm not sure they can hang with the Orange. Ward had foot surgery just before the end of the season and will miss the tourney.
Ward's absence puts more pressure and focus on Will Cherry and with the depth that Syracuse has, it would indeed be a massive upset if they were able to send Jim Boeheim packing. They were able to win without Ward, including taking home the Big Sky tourney, but there's a big difference between a good win against Weber State and a win against perennial power Syracuse.
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Louisville got the #1 overall seed, which tells me the selection committee took the injuries the team had into account. While Louisville made a solid case on the floor, time missed by Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng does help color some of those losses.
Dieng missed the Duke loss as he missed time with a wrist injury. Dieng's blocks and defense were key in their Big East tourney wins. Behanean missed time earlier this season with a sprained ankle that the team took its time with. While not thought to be significant, the depth of the team allowed them to give Behanen the rest that may help keep him healthy in March.
With the team healthy and hitting on all cylinders, it may not be Kentucky that brings home a title this year, but it might stay in the state.