Getty Images

How have past National Title contenders fared after losing a star player to injury?

1 Comment

In light of the back injury that will keep Joel Embiid out for the Big 12 tournament and could foreseeably saddle him to the bench for the entirety of the NCAA tournament, we decided to take a look at season-ending injuries to key players on past National Title contenders:

Kenyon Martin: Cincinnati was the No. 1 team in the country and Martin was the National Player of the Year, but he broke his leg in the first round of the Conference USA tournament. The Bearcats were given a two-seed and eventually lost in the second round to Tulsa.

Hank Gathers: We all know the story. Gathers was a star in LMU’s high-powered offense in 1990 that tragically passed away during the WCC tournament. The Lions lost in the Elite 8 to eventual national champion UNLV.

Scott May: May was averaging 18.5 points for Indiana an undefeated Indiana team in 1975 when he broke his arm in a game against Purdue in late-February. The Hoosiers lost in the Elite 8 to Kentucky. Without May’s injury, Bobby Knight may have ended up leading Indiana to back-to-back undefeated seasons.

Kendall Marshall: Everyone talks about how good Kentucky was in 2012, but no one ever seems to remember that North Carolina was considered a legitimate title contender as well … before Marshall, the point guard that was the engine to UNC’s offense, went down with a broken bone in his wrist. North Carolina lost in the Elite 8 to Kansas.

Robbie Hummel: Purdue looked like the best team in the Big Ten and a potential No. 1 seed when Hummel tore his ACL in February. The Boilermakers ended up being a four-seed, losing in the Sweet 16 to No. 1 seed Duke.

Arinze Onuaku: Syracuse lost Onuaku, their starting center, to a leg injury in the Big East tournament in 2010. They still earned a No. 1 seed, but they lost to Butler in the Sweet 16.

Loren Woods: Woods was averaging 15.6 points, 7.5 boards and 4.0 blocks for Arizona, but suffered a back injury that kept him out for the season in mid-February. The Wildcats lost to Wisconsin in the second round.

Derek Anderson: Anderson was averaging 17.7 points as a redshirt senior for Kentucky in 1997 when he tore his ACL in January. Kentucky still managed to make it all the way to the title game, losing to Arizona in overtime, but it’s hard not to wonder whether that injury cost Kentucky a three-peat.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
Getty Images
Leave a comment

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”