College Basketball Handicapping: Injuries Not Always Cut and Dry
by Robert Ferringo - 1/12/2010
Tyler Smith gets kicked off the team and Tennessee can’t stop covering. Evan Turner and Malcolm Delaney come back from injury and Ohio State and Virginia Tech, respectively, can’t start.
Injuries to key players in sports aren’t always what they seem. In NBA it’s been a widely held maxim to always bet on a team that just lost its best player to injury. (Milwaukee covered at Phoenix this week right after losing Michael Redd for the season. That’s just the latest in a long line of examples.) And if you’ve been following the rise of the Volunteers over the last week it would appear that it holds up in college hoops as well. Hell, they lost four of their best players and they managed a blowout win and an upset of the No. 1 team in the country.
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Oddsmakers obviously adjust quickly to injury situations. But how the teams respond often varies. And while it may seem like the Vols’ situation is an expression of The Rule there are certainly a host of situations where teams don’t have McDonald’s All-Americans to plug in when their three-year-starter at point guard goes down.
Below is a list of random, yet key, injury situations that are developing throughout the corners of college basketball. Some players are going out, others are coming in, and some teams are going to respond differently to the additions and subtractions that come with any given season. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Jon Leuer, Wisconsin
I think that there is little doubt that Leuer has been the most improved player in the country up to this point. He is the No. 2 scorer and the No. 1 rebounder on the No. 16 team in the country. Now Leuer is out indefinitely with a broken left wrist. He was really the fulcrum of that club and the most vulnerable player on the Badgers, who were, in my opinion, one of the real surprise teams in the nation this year. He is a very tough player to replace but the Badgers still managed to beat a top Purdue team with Leuer going 2-for-15 (while injured) on Saturday. I’m sure Bo Ryan will find a way. Two road games followed by home games against Michigan and Penn State are on deck.
Justin Dobbins, Eastern Michigan
Turner wasn’t the only person that went down for a month in the Ohio State-Eastern Michigan game. Dobbins tried to give it a go on gimpy legs but left after four minutes. He hasn’t played since (six games) and EMU has kind of putzed around since then. But it looks like he’ll be back for the Eagles’ home opener against Toledo on Wednesday. That should now give EMU a solid trio of Dobbins, Brandon Bowdry and Carlos Medlock. We’ll see how effective he’ll be and if it will have any impact on the sad sack Eagles.
Dwayne Lathan, Indiana State
Indiana State’s leading scorer is allegedly set to miss 10 games with a left leg sprain. Apparently the 10 days started on Jan. 7, the day after Lathan hurt himself in an overtime loss at Bradley. ISU is already down point guard Jake Kelly, who is out for the year, and now may have to play without their main man heading into a vicious four-game stretch against Wichita, Northern Iowa, Missouri State and UNI again. ISU is a guard-heavy team and there are others to step in. But they won’t be as good without Lathan.
Jimmer Fredette, BYU
The best player in the Mountain West and one of the most underrated players in the country is going to miss some time with mono. He has missed two of the last three games and was the shell of himself in a slim win over UNLV. He has reportedly lost eight pounds due to illness and just doesn’t have the energy to keep up. BYU has a little bit of a soft spot coming up in the schedule. They go to feeble Air Force and then have tight home games against streaky Colorado State and Wyoming before tricky trips to SDSU and The Pit.
Mouhammed Faye, SMU
SMU’s No. 2 scorer and rebounder and their top shot-blocker is on the shelf with a mystery arm injury. The Mustangs have played twice without him and covered the spread in a tight four-point loss to UTEP before winning by 28 over a D-II school. They aren’t very good with or without him. But I thought this might be a year for SMU to step up. And that does become tougher without one of their key players.
Kevin Sims, Tulane
The senior point guard went down with a broken arm against UAB last Saturday. He is the senior leader of a team that was struggling to keep its head above water. Now I don’t see how they don’t drown. Tulane also lost another starting guard, Aaron Holmes, to an injury in practice so they are now without two of their top five scorers and their best two ball handlers. The Green Wave are hitting a very soft spot in the schedule. But these losses will catch up with them in the improving CUSA.
Billy White, San Diego State
White is doubtful this week after severely spraining his ankle last week against New Mexico. The Aztecs coughed up a 14-point halftime lead at Wyoming on Saturday without him and now have to head to UNLV and to Utah in the next week and may be without their top scorer and most experienced, athletic forward. White might not be out long though and could even suit up this weekend.
Brett Harvey, Loyola
This is one of the stranger instances involving one of the stranger teams in college this year. First, Harvey missed a game with an illness that was undisclosed but also severe enough to land him in the hospital. Harvey returned from that just in time to go out with a shoulder injury. He played during a cover at Fairfield but then was out in a home loss to Iona. Loyola plays three bad teams – Marist twice and St. Peter’s – in its next four games and they have to hope to have their top scorer, best shooter, and best ball handler back before the end of the month.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and he has gained over +300 Units over the past three college basketball seasons. You can purchase his college basketball picks here.
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