Injuries Play Key Role in NCAA Tournament Hopes: Teams with Title Hopes Face Difficult Roads

Two Season Enders

Last night's injury bug took it's toll on Marquette as Dominic James, Marquette's steady senior guard, broke a bone in a loss to Connecticut. James is one of Marquette's best defensive players and the loss of his 11.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game will strain a team that relies heavily on perimeter play at both ends of the court. James' status for the remainder of the season is uncertain but unlikely.

Earlier this month Connecticut suffered a major blow with the loss of Jerome Dyson to a torn meniscus. Dyson was UConn's best perimeter defender, able to match up with both smaller guards and taller wing players.

Dyson was also UConn's most versatile scorer, with an explosive first step and finish. Dyson's 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game won't be easily made up by the combination of Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker.

Indeed, as the season winds down and teams start league tournaments, a careful eye on the injury front is warranted. With little time to heal, even minor injuries can adversely impact a team counting on having all it's best players healthy for the stretch run. In several cases only time will tell if minor injuries will cause long-lasting problems.

Two To Watch

Perhaps the most critical blow was to Blake Griffen, Oklahoma's Player of the Year candidate who was knocked out, literally, in a loss to Texas. Griffen may be the most important player in the country to his team; without him Oklahoma's chances at any tournament run, including in the Big XII, are limited. Keep an eye on Griffen this weekend against Texas Tech to see how he responds.

Davidson fans' hearts skipped a beat when Stephen Curry went down with a twisted ankle in mid February. X-ray's confirmed the sprain, and Curry is listed as day to day. The nation's leading scorer, Curry IS Davidson basketball.

In a league that may get only one bid via the Southern Conference tournament championship, Curry is the only thing separating Davidson from an appearance in the NCAA tournament instead of the NIT.

A Look Down the Road

For Connecticut and Marquette the losses of Dyson and James, respectively, could dampen expectations of deep tournament runs. Oklahoma's prospects similarly rest on the healing power of Griffen, whom they need to have any chance at advancing. Davidson needs Curry just to qualify. In the meantime, basketball fans hold their collective breaths hoping the injury bug doesn't come to their gym any time soon.

Donald S. Cochran
 

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