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Keeping Tabs on Injuries
by Al McMordie - 12/12/2005
It's essential to keep daily tabs on college basketball teams, as much as you possibly can. Injuries, suspensions and benchings can play a key role in the production of each team. Kentucky got bad news last week with the suspension of sophomore center Randolph Morris for the entire season. The Wildcats were counting on him as a key low post force, and it's a blow not only to their frontcourt but also to their psyche. 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Rajon Rondo was the Wildcats' leading rebounder in Saturday's embarrassing 79-53 loss at Indiana. It was the worst defeat in the Tubby Smith era. Kentucky shot 31%, so having a big guy like Morris would have helped.
The Minnesota Gophers have been battling injuries all season, but notice what happened on Saturday. Vincent Grier scored 19 points in his earlier-than-expected return to the court as Minnesota held off UNLV 72-67. Playing with a bandaged left shooting hand, Grier showed no signs of rust in his first game since breaking a bone in his ring finger in Minnesota's season opener against North Dakota State on Nov. 18. Grier was an All-Big Ten selection last year, and he scored 17.9 points per game. The All-American candidate had been expected to miss four to six weeks, and had been barely been cleared Thursday to resume non-contact drills in practice. On Friday, coach Dan Monson said Grier was doubtful to play against the Runnin' Rebels. So even injury reports can be misleading. It's essential to read daily newspapers for tips such as this, and even listen to games via Internet radio. Grier took the floor for warmups on Saturday and received a loud ovation when introduced as part of the starting lineup. His return provided an emotional lift to the team, and his play on the court no doubt helped as well.
Washington State likes to play a slow-down defensive style, and allows 55 ppg (5-2 under the total). The Cougars had been without 6-11 sophomore center Robbie Cowgill (collarbone), who recently came back. Notice he was the leading scorer and rebounder in their last game, a 60-49 win (and cover) over SDSU.
Creighton's best player and leading scorer, guard Nate Funk, is having shoulder trouble and has missed time. The offense revolves around Funk, so not having him available is a huge key.
Even lesser known role players can be important. Sometimes a team has a guy who doesn't score or shoot much, but is a valuable role player, either as a defender or rebounder. Even a loss of someone like that can influence a team. Gonzaga is still without guard Derek Raivio (back problems), one of its best defensive players, who is expected back anytime. Notice that Gonzaga went over the total in its only road game. Having a defensive player out like that can help a handicapper find an edge in the side or the total. And successful handicappers keep tabs on everything and assess how injuries, suspensions and benchings may or may not influence a result. Good luck as always...Al McMordie.