In college basketball, injuries are inevitable. Teams hope for the best and fear the worst when a player goes down. The phrase “out for season” is one that sends shivers up the spines of coaches, players and fans alike. Here are the the biggest college basketball injuries thus far this season.
Maurice Watson Jr., Creigthon Blue Jays
Greg McDermott and Creighton were having a stellar year. This looked to be one of the best teams in Omaha, ever. The Blue Jays rolled to a 17-1 record and traveled to Cincinnati to face Big East rival Xavier.
Disaster struck when the NCAA’s leading distributor, Maurice Watson Jr., went down with a knee injury. Medical reports revealed that it was the dreaded ACL and Watson Jr. was finished for the season.
Creighton won a huge test on the road but that was largely marred by the loss of their key player.
Watson Jr. transferred from Boston University and sat out a year after averaging 13.3 points and 7.1 assists. This year, Creighton added Marcus Foster from Kansas State along with a great returning cast of Cole Huff and Khyri Thomas.
Freshman Justin Patton also arrived on the scene to give Watson Jr. another target. At 8.5 assists per game and 12.5 points, Watson Jr. was a key part of the offensive flow. Since he went down, the team has gone 2-3 after Saturday’s loss to Xavier in Omaha.
Their ceiling has dropped tremendously. While before the Final Four was on the table for one of the most prolific (84.7 points per game) and efficient (52.1% field goal percentage, second in the nation) offenses, this is no longer a reality. Without Watson Jr., this team does not get past the Sweet 16.
This is a major blow for a team with the potential to win more than just a Big East title.
OG Anunoby, Indiana Hoosiers
With Thomas Bryant returning, the Indiana Hoosiers looked to make some noise even in the post-Yogi Ferrell era. OG Anunoby was a large part of that campaign. He is a multifaceted forward with the ability to score, rebound, defend and create.
Anunoby averaged 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and led the team with 1.3 steals per game. Anunoby was efficient with a 23.7 PER and offensive box plus/minus of 5.4 this year and also effective on the defensive end with a defensive box plus/minus of 4.5. This means that Anunoby adds about as much value on the offensive end as the defensive end of the floor.
In the first half of their contest against Penn State on Jan. 18, they lost Anunoby for the year. The news was confirmed by Tom Crean a few days alter that the forward would need surgery on his right knee.
With the Hoosiers allowing 71.6 points per game and plenty of Big 10 games to go as of yet, that is where he will be missed most. The Hoosiers have stumbled their way to a sub .500 conference record (5-6) and are 2-3 since losing their key asset. In those games the team gave up an average of 83.8 points.
Even though the Hoosiers grabbed wins against Michigan State and Penn State, Anunoby’s presence is already sorely missed.
This is one of those injuries that causes a team to falter from a season of work. ESPN bracketologist Joe Liunardi currently has the Hoosiers at an 11 seed and one of the last four in the tournament, but to be sure of their place in March Madness the Hoosiers need to finish at or above .500 in the Big 10 at a minimum.
That means getting some combination of key wins against 23rd ranked Purdue and Caleb Swanigan who they play twice, a 25th-ranked Northwestern squad or the likes of Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa. They are not safe just yet. Anunoby’s injury puts them in grave risk.
Edmond Sumner, Xavier Musketeers
Xavier basketball looked to finally reach the promised land in Phoenix in 2017 coming into the season. At least they had a great shot to do so. Even with the unexpected departure of Myles Davis, the Musketeers hope were not dashed just yet.
Fresh off of a heavyweight bout with the Cincinnati Bearcats in the crosstown shootout, Chris Mack’s team traveled to New York to take on Chris Mullin and the St. John’s Red Storm. Sumner went down with a torn ACL and so did Xavier’s hopes for playing in early April.
The previously projected first round draft pick averages 15.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds. He is a dynamic guard with the ability to score, pass and rebound well for his size.
The Musketeers have not necessarily struggled throughout the season to put points on the board (76.7 points per game), but they have had some poor showings and slumps. Sumner’s exit means less flow for the Xavier offense, so any struggles will increase.
There are no nights off in the Big East and the schedule will intensify for Xavier. Saturday they took down Creighton (minus Watson Jr.) in Omaha. They still have games against Villanova, who clobbered them in their first meeting, Butler and two games against a surging Marquette Golden Eagle squad.
There is a real potential for this team to finish with ten or more losses in the season. They are not in danger of missing out on the Big Dance, but they will not be around come Final Four Saturday.