According to a Chicago Tribune report (http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/chi-12-northwestern-basketball-nov12,0,4836293.story ), star Northwestern forward Kevin Coble injured his foot in practice on Tuesday. The severity of the injury has yet to be determined, but early reports are that he will miss at least a few weeks.
This is a major blow to the Cats. Even if he only misses two weeks, that would mean that NU would have to face key out of conference opponents Butler and Notre Dame without their best player. Northwestern probably needs to win at least one of those games to bolster their tournament chances.
Coble is by far their best offensive threat. They are already adjusting to the graduation of Craig Moore, this injury will put even more strain on their offense. Michael Thompson and John Shurna were the only other players to average seven points per game or more last season, so it will take at least one, and probably several players stepping into bigger roles.
This injury likely means that Shurna will have to grow up fast. He showed flashes last year and his potential improvement was one of the main reasons for optomism in Evanston. However, that is no longer a luxury for this team; it's a necessity.
Even if Shurna does produce at star levels during Coble's absence, the Cats will need other players to consistently contribute. Fans of the team have seen what happens when they only have two proven players.
Do the Cats have the talent to win without Coble? I honestly don't know. A lot of people have high expectations for Drew Crawford, but we have to remember that he is a only a freshman that hasn't played a game that counts yet. Luka Mirkovic also looks promising, but he might not be able to fill the scoring gap. The rest of their roster looks to be comprised of role players.
I'll admit I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. We don't know how serious this injury is yet. It's possible he could be back relatively soon and it won't end up having a major impact on the season.
However, it is clearly an inauspicious start to the Northwestern season. It's hard to not worry about the worst case scenario for a program that has had little luck with reaching expectations in the past.