Notre Dame, USC and 10 College Basketball Teams Already Hampered by Injuries
Notre Dame lost Tim Abromaitis and Vanderbilt has been without Festus Ezeli, but they're just two teams who have been plagued by injuries in the early stages of 2011-12.
Several Division I college basketball players have suffered season-ending injuries, severely debilitating their teams. Others—like Ezeli—will return to action eventually, but their voids have left their teams begging for help.
Let's look at the 10 teams hurting the most...
No one in the Ivy League has a legitimate chance of stealing the conference's automatic bid from Harvard—the Crimson made their first appearance in the AP Top 25 this week—but Columbia might have had a chance of having a chance with a healthy Noruwa Agho.
Those hopes were shattered in the Lions' second game of the season, a 62-58 loss to Furman. Agho went down late in the game with an apparent knee injury and, later, was diagnosed with a torn patellar tendon.
In all likelihood, Agho will miss the rest of 2011-12.
The senior—a 40 percent career marksman from deep—averaged better than 16 points per game as a sophomore and junior and was the best player on this Columbia team.
Though the Lions are 6-2 without their star, don't be fooled—they've beaten two non-Division I teams, a George Beamon-less Manhattan team and a Loyola Marymount squad without leading scorer Ashley Hamilton.
Without Agho, Columbia is destined for a season of mediocrity.
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Missouri might be 8-0 with an 85.6 point per game average, but imagine how much more dominant the Tigers would be with Laurence Bowers, a 6'8" senior forward who tore his ACL in the preseason.
Bowers averaged 11.6 points, 6.1 boards and 1.8 blocks a season ago, and his presence would bolster a thin Mizzou frontcourt. While Ricardo Ratliffe has played well, he and Bowers, together, would make Missouri all the more formidable.
We haven't seen anyone expose Missouri's lack of size yet, but the day will come and Bowers will be missed.
Santa Clara Broncos
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A year after winning 24 games, Santa Clara expected to return its top three scorers for 2011-12. However, Marc Trasolini tore his left ACL in September, ending his season before it started.
The 6'9" senior forward averaged 12.8 points and and a team-high 6.1 rebounds last year. Though Niyi Harrison has stepped up and Yannick Atanga is averaging six rebounds in 15 minutes per game, Trasolini would have made this team a legitimate contender in the WCC.
The backcourt of Kevin Foster and Evan Roquemore will keep the Broncos competitive, but Trasolini would have elevated them another notch.
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USC probably wouldn't have competed for an NCAA tournament berth, but any team would be better off with its point guard and leading returning scorer. So, when Jio Fontan tore his ACL this summer, the Trojans were devastated.
Fontan averaged 10.5 points and 3.9 assists per game in his first season after transferring from Fordham, and USC clearly misses him. The Trojans are 4-5 and rank No. 334 in the nation in points and No. 337 in assists.
Utah State Aggies
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Even after losing Tai Wesley and four other key rotation players, Utah State still entered 2011-12 hopeful of attaining another NCAA tournament berth.
That goal could be beyond reach if Brady Jardine's foot injury forces him to miss the remainder of the season. The senior forward is currently out indefinitely after injuring himself on Nov. 19, and the Aggies have gone 2-3 in his absence.
In two full games, Jardine averaged 10.5 points and 11 rebounds.
Drexel was picked to win the CAA, and after four early losses, the Dragons will have to do so if they want to dance.
Perhaps the main reason Drexel is just 2-4? The Dragons haven't had a healthy Chris Fouch.
The junior guard missed the first four games but hasn't played well since returning on Nov. 30.
Drexel needs Fouch—their returning leading scorer—to return to form. Otherwise, the Dragons won't be playing in mid-March.
Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier
With Eli Holman suspended indefinitely, Detroit's Ray McCallum Sr. needed every inch he could send to the floor.
His team is 2-3 since losing 80 inches when Nick Minnerath went down for the season with a knee injury.
Fortunately for the Titans, guards Ray McCallum Jr. and Chase Simon can rebound the rock, but the team is destined to struggle against bigger teams.
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If you've heard any college basketball analyst talk about Vanderbilt's early season struggles—the Commodores are 5-3—you're probably tired of hearing that this team is totally different with Festus Ezeli on the floor.
It's the truth, though, so you better accept it.
Ezeli's knee has precluded him from game action, and the Commodores sorely miss his presence in the paint. As a junior, the 6'11" center averaged 13 points, 6.3 boards and 2.6 blocks per game.
Anyone who can alter shots like Ezeli has a huge impact on his team's ability to win, and we've realized that early in 2011-12.
When Ezeli returns, Vanderbilt could be the top 10 team it was in the preseason. Hopefully for the Commodores, though, the early season struggles won't diminish their resume too much.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
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Don't overrate Minnesota's 3-0 record since losing Trevor Mbakwe for the season. The void left by the defensive presence and double-double threat will catch up with the Gophers soon.
Mbakwe averaged 13.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a junior, and he led Minnesota in all three categories before tearing his ACL.
You can't replace a player of his caliber.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
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Regardless of Tim Abromaitis' health, Notre Dame would have struggled to make the NCAA tournament. Without him, though, the Fighting Irish have no chance of dancing in March.
Abromaitis averaged 15.4 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 42.9 percent from deep as a junior, and Notre Dame just doesn't have enough firepower without its senior forward.
Gonzaga routed the Fighting Irish by 20, and a depleted Maryland team beat Mike Brey's squad by seven.