By: Chris O’Brien
My bracket was finished. Submitted. No need to make any tweaks.
Chuck and I had recorded almost three hours of podcasts going game by game through each region. We got to our conclusion, same thing as above: done. Published. Time to settle in and watch some games.
But then big news arrived on Tuesday. De’Andre Hunter, the sixth man of the year, and Virginia’s most NBA ready player is declared out via injury for the entire NCAA Tournament. Suddenly the No. 1 overall seed, the safest pick to win it all, looks very vulnerable in that potential Sweet 16 matchup against either Kentucky or Arizona.
This post won’t dive into advice on what to do with the news of each injury (but I will say, I’m still riding Virginia to the final game. They remain a really good team, still have the best defense of anybody). What this post aims to do is just get the information in front of you. Help you make informed last-minute adjustments. What you choose to do with this power is totally your call.
Let’s start with the South Region. And to keep up with the latest injury updates, go check out this site: http://www.donbest.com/ncaab/injuries/
De’Andre Hunter. 20 minutes a game, 9.1 ppg.
Virginia is not alone when it comes to key injuries in this part of the bracket. Creighton had the devastating injury to Martin Krampelj on Jan. 18. The Bluejays have been just 6-7 since that time. Krampelj was third in scoring (11.9 ppg) and first in rebounding (8.1 rpg).
This one’s interesting, Barry Brown and Dean Wade were both upgraded to “probable” for the Creighton game. Curious to know how much these injuries are lingering. These are KState’s two best players, need both to be healthy to get past Creighton.
Jarred Vanderbilt has been downgraded to doubtful for the Davidson game. 17 minutes a game, 5.9 ppg, but here’s the big one: he’s Kentucky’s leading rebounder at 7.9 rpg. Should be fine against Davidson, would be a key missing piece against the size of Arizona.
No injuries. Just that fear the FBI could bust into the locker room at any moment and take Sean Miller and Deandre Ayton into armored vehicles.
Miami is without their best player Bruce Brown.
Ben Richardson tweaked his back, listed as probable for the Miami game. Third in minutes per game.
Lindsey Drew (29.2 minutes per game, 8.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.3 apg) went down with an Achilles injury on Feb. 16. The Wolfpack are 4-2 since that time, only thing interesting to note in that span: they went from beating San Diego State 83-58 with Drew to losing to San Diego State twice in three weeks, that Mountain West tournament game a beatdown, 90-73.
Kendal Stephens (26.7 mpg, 13.5 ppg) listed as probable for the Texas game. Nevada will need Stephens healthy.
Talented guard Andrew Jones went out for the season on Jan. 10. The Longhorns have gone 8-9 since that time.
Other blow, Eric Davis Jr. suspended indefinitely as of Feb. 23. Davis scored about nine ppg and played 26 minutes per game.
The big news is Michael Porter Jr. is back for the tournament. This presents a very interesting storyline as Porter Jr. might be the future No. 1 NBA Draft pick.
But check out this chaos:
Jordan Barnett (34 mpg, 14.1 ppg, 6 rpg) – Legal problems, out against Florida State.
Jordan Geist (25.6 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg) – Illness, probable for Florida State.
Cullen VanLeer (14.3 mpg, 2.4 ppg) – Not as significant as the other two, but he’s questionable for Friday. Lot of depth concerns for Mizzou.
I wouldn’t overreact too much to this one, Wes VanBeck is questionable against San Diego State. He’s fifth on the team in scoring but that’s just 6.2 ppg and plays less then 20 minutes. The Cougars should be fine
Similar situation here to Houston above. Isaiah Livers is probable vs. Montana, but if he ends up missing that’s only 4 ppg and 2.3 rpg that Beilein would have to account for.
Lost their guards JJ Caldwell and Duane Wilson on back-to-back days in February. The Aggies have gone 3-4 since that time.
Wilson was a bigger hit, he was averaging 24 minutes a night, nine points per game. Caldwell was only 16 minutes, three points a game.
Ed Cooley’s pants.
Cameron Johnson, this is an important one to keep an eye on. He is only questionable for the first round game. Johnson averages just shy of 30 minutes per game, third on the team in scoring with 13.2 ppg.
Still like UNC’s path, but if he’s not 100 percent they do become vulnerable to the size of Texas A&M and Michigan would be really difficult.
A little different format here, just want to make sure everyone knows Villanova’s best defender, Phil Booth, is perfectly healthy. And worth mentioning, the loss against St. John’s and @ Providence in early February came when he was out. Nova’s 25-2 with him in the lineup.
Very important one to check in on Wednesday (or early morning Thursday) to see if there’s a final answer. Right now Donta Hall (6’9”, great athlete, 24 mpg, 10.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is questionable against Virginia Tech. Without Hall, will be very hard to see BAMA pulling this out.
Similar to Villanova, just want to point out that Keenan Evans is fully healthy again. When he was battling a foot injury (he was playing with two different sized shoes, noticeably uncomfortable out there) the Red Raiders finished the regular season 1-4. With Evans back and fully healthy in the Big 12 tourney they beat Texas then lost a close one to West Virginia.
For perspective, imagine if Devonte Graham was battling injury for five games and what effect that would have on the Jayhawks. Evans is right there with Graham for best point guard in the Big 12.
Look at Tech as the team they were when leading the Big 12 vs. the team that dropped to 11-7 in conference.
Udoka Azubuike listed as probable for KU, the most recent reports I’ve seen have said he will sit out the Penn game. He sat out the Big 12 tournament, De Sousa and Lightfoot stepped up, Kansas still were able to win.
Kansas could still make it to the Elite 8 with an injured or limited Doke (they would need him to battle Delgado on Seton Hall), but there’s no way they could get past Duke or Michigan State without him. Signs are pointing to Doke being fully healthy by the weekend, but it’s enough of a concern for a thin frontcourt that you may want to lean Duke or Michigan State to come out of this region.
Another big one to watch, Desi Rodriguez (leading scorer, 18.1 ppg) is probable against NC State with a sore ankle. Pirates need Rodriguez at full strength.
Donte Grantham (31.8 ppg, 14.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg) went down Jan. 22. The Tigers have gone 6-7 since the injury (they were 17-2 before that point).
Similar to Clemson on the injury front. McLemore (7.4 ppg) went down on Feb. 17. Tigers have gone 2-4 since the injury. They were 23-3 before that point.
Kind of hard to judge TCU. Losing point guard Jaylen Fisher was a big hit back in the middle of January, but they haven’t really dropped off much and they’ve had two months now to get used to life without Fisher on the court.
The Bison will need everything possible to beat Michigan State. Being out their sixth leading scorer (granted, just 5.6 ppg) doesn’t help the cause.
Kameron McGusty (18 mpg, 8 ppg) is battling illness, listed as probable for the Rhode Island game.
Oklahoma also has a damaged soul. They have not been the same team since Jan. 16. No road wins in 2018.
I know I’ve probably scared a lot of fan bases here in this post by listing the probables alongside OUT and questionables, but do need to mention that Trevon Duval and Wendell Carter are both nursing ankle injuries. Should be fine, looking like they’ll play, but something to keep in mind if you’re 50/50 on a Michigan State vs. Duke matchup, maybe this is enough to flip it to the Spartans.
And here’s that website again: http://www.donbest.com/ncaab/injuries/
Hit refresh a bunch tomorrow, setup Google Alerts, do what you gotta do. Every game matters on the bracket, don’t let a couple wins slip away due to injuries.