Already limited in numbers, No. 20 Duke took another personnel hit in the form of junior guard Matt Jones.
Friday afternoon the program announced that Jones will miss the Blue Devils’ game at No. 18 Louisville as a result of a sprained left ankle suffered in their win at No. 5 North Carolina Wednesday night. Jones played just nine minutes as a result of the injury, with freshman Luke Kennard absorbing many of those minutes in his sixth man role.
Without Jones, Kennard in all likelihood will move into the starting lineup as Duke doesn’t have another option.
Jones joins power forward Amile Jefferson on the sideline for head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Jefferson’s absence has limited the team’s front court depth, as neither freshman Chase Jeter nor Rice transfer Sean Obi have been able to show that they’re capable of handling extended minutes.
Duke has more talent on the perimeter, but losing Jones means that Duke now lacks an option to get their key options a moment of rest during the course of a game. That shouldn’t change much offensively, but it will impact how Duke plays on the defensive end as avoiding foul trouble becomes even more important.
Saturday afternoon No. 3 Villanova visits No. 11 Providence in a rematch of an entertaining game played in Philadelphia January 24, with the Friars winning in overtime. However both teams could enter Saturday’s game at less than full strength, with their starting big men dealing with injuries.
Villanova senior center Daniel Ochefu hasn’t played since that loss to Providence due to a concussion suffered in practice in the days leading up to the Wildcats’ win over Creighton, and the program announced Friday that he is doubtful to return to the court Saturday.
Without Ochefu the Wildcats have started junior Darryl Reynolds in the post, and fellow junior Kris Jenkins put forth two of his best outings of the season in wins over Creighton and St. John’s. If Ochefu can’t play against the Friars, those two will once again be key for Jay Wright’s team.
As for Providence, sophomore forward Ben Bentil was listed as day-to-day following an ankle injury he suffered in a loss at DePaul Wednesday night. Bentil, who has been one of the nation’s most improved players this season, played just 14 minutes against the Blue Demons as a result of the injury. Without him Providence would likely call upon freshman Quadree Smith, who himself had injury issues to navigate earlier this season, for more minutes in the paint.
With Bentil sidelined for most of the game freshman Ryan Fazekas also saw increased minutes, playing 29 in what was his most extensive action since playing 35 minutes in the Friars’ win at Rhode Island in early December.
Three days before they host West Virginia in their final non-conference game before the start of ACC play, Virginia Tech announced that it will be without one of its best rebounders.
Freshman forward Chris Clarke is out indefinitely after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. Clarke, who’s averaging 10.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, will undergo surgery to repair the fracture this week and at that point there will be some kind of idea as to how long he could be out of the lineup.
Head coach Buzz Williams has four other players averaging at least ten points per game, but where Clarke will be missed is on the glass. Zach LeDay, who is also Virginia Tech’s leading scorer, is averaging a team-best 9.4 rebounds per game and will remain the focal point in the paint for the Hokies.
Clarke’s absence means more opportunities for freshman Kerry Blackshear Jr., who’s averaging 6.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and junior 7-footer Johnny Hamilton (3.6 rpg) should see more minutes as well.
Wednesday’s game against West Virginia was already going to be tough. But to go into that contest a man down in the paint against a rotation that includes Devin Williams, Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon makes that matchup even more difficult for the Hokies.
Dan Hanner, who crunches numbers over at RealGM.com, puts out one of my favorite columns of the year when he breaks down the offensive and defensive efficiencies of teams that suffer serious injuries throughout the season.
You can read it here and here. It’s worth your time.
Some of the most interesting numbers that Hanner produced:
- Offensively, Kansas State is significantly better with Jevon Thomas in the lineup even though Thomas has been utterly atrocious shooting and scoring the ball. The reason for this is Thomas’ ability to create offense for others. Case in point: he was 1-for-6 from the floor in the win over West Virginia, but he had eight assists and no turnovers and took the pressure to create off of guys like Shane Southwell and Marcus Foster.
- On paper, it looks like Creighton is significantly worse defensively and significantly better offensively without Grant Gibbs in the lineup. Those numbers are a bit skewed because of a blowout win over Butler at home and a blowout loss to Providence on the road. There’s an argument to be made that Creighton is better offensively with Devin Brooks getting more minutes, but where the Bluejays miss Gibbs is with his toughness and his leadership. He’s a presence. He’s not going to be intimidated going on the road to play Providence or Villanova or Marquette, and he’s not going to let his teammates be intimidated, either.
- “Notre Dame has been playing like the 109th best team in the nation with [Jerian] Grant out,” Hanner wrote. Yikes.
Just when it seemed that No. 10 Florida was getting to full strength, point guard Scottie Wilbekin went down in the second half of their win over South Carolina on Wednesday night with a sprained right ankle. Wilbekin, who missed the first five games of the season due to a suspension, accounted for 17 points and three assists before going down in the second half of the 74-58 victory.
Wilbekin injured the ankle in Florida’s one-point loss at UConn on December 2, and since that game the Gators have won six games in a row.
And according to Chris Harry of Gatorzone.com Wilbekin isn’t the only player dealing with a health issue, as senior forward Casey Prather was held out of practice after waking up with swelling in his right knee. According to the report Prather will undergo tests on the knee Thursday evening, and both players are questionable for Florida’s game at Arkansas on Saturday.
Both players are key contributors for the Gators, with Prather being one of the best players in the SEC to this point in the season. After averaging just 6.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as a junior Prather’s up to 17.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest in 2013-14. He’s also leading the SEC in field goal percentage (62.4%), and Prather has surpassed the 20-point mark four times this season.
Obviously these would be big personnel losses if Prather and Wilbekin are unable to go on Saturday afternoon, especially when considering how tough Arkansas can be in Fayetteville.
With the graduation of key contributors Jonathan Lee and Joel Smith from last season’s CAA regular season champion squad, Northeastern junior guard Quincy Ford was expected to be a major contributor for the Huskies. But after playing in the team’s first two games of the season a back injury has sidelined Ford, and on Thursday he underwent season-ending surgery (lumbar microdisectomy) to address the pain he’s been dealing with.
“We want to support him and his health is of our utmost concern,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said after the team’s loss to Harvard on Wednesday. “We want to make sure he’s healthy first, and he gets the proper medical treatment. All our guys in the locker room are behind him, all our coaches are behind him. And Quincy is gonna dedicate himself to coming back better than ever.”
As a sophomore Ford posted averages of 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, earning third-team All-CAA honors. The Huskies are 2-6 on the season, with one of their two victories coming against Georgetown in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Forward Scott Eatherton (16.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg) and guard David Walker (12.2, 3.9) are the Huskies’ top two scorers, and as a team they’re averaging 68.5 points per game.
The problems have been on the defensive end, with opponents scoring 71.1 points per game and shooting 45.7% from the field. Not having Ford has made things more difficult for Northeastern, but the hope for the Huskies is that by the time conference play begins they’ll be an improved group defensively.