Tevonn Walker, Valparaiso Sophomore Guard
You often hear that the tournament committee will take into consideration the injury of an important player. If true, it should be noted that Walker missed the Horizon League Championship game against Green Bay with a right ankle sprain. Walker plays about 23 minutes per game. Losing a solid ball-handler in tournament play is nothing to sneeze at. With Valparaiso, the offense should always run through forward star Alec Peters. Walker is one of the better facilitators on the team. He also hits about 1 of 3 three pointers per game. On a few occasions, he got hot from behind the line and won some games for the Crusaders. It’s our position that Valpo should get a bid and that they’re a better team with Walker in the lineup.
Amile Jefferson, Duke Senior Forward
Life was difficult for a young Blue Devils squad after Amile Jefferson broke his right foot in early December. However, Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram have been clicking on offense. Duke was the most efficient offense in college basketball in early February when they beat Louisville and Virginia. It was recently reported that Amile Jefferson will return not return and will seek a medical red shirt. This is a huge loss for Duke in terms of defense and, of course, pure experience.
Jordan Bell, Oregon Sophomore Forward
Oregon has long-been a darling of collegebasketballeyetest.com’s this season. The Ducks could easily be a Final Four team. When you watch, Jordan Bell appears to be an X factor. After returning in mid-December from foot surgery, the Ducks won any game in which Bell scored 7 or more points. At 6-8 he is one of few “rim protectors.” The Ducks are rather small compared to most teams you’d tab as a possible Final Four. But they have about as solid a seven man rotation as you could ask for. Bell shows flashes of being the type of bench player that could help cut the nets. In 14 minutes of action in a win against Utah, Bell grabbed 4 boards, blocked 3 shots and scored 10. He has already set the all-time career record for shots blocked at Oregon with 120 (92 in his freshman season). Bell’s production has fluctuated slightly late this season, so I’d monitor Eugene writers such as Tyson Alger to see how that surgically-repaired foot is doing. During the PAC 12 Tournament, Bell struggled by getting into foul trouble often. No word on whether that’s connected to the foot injury.
Casey Jones, Chattanooga Senior Guard
Casey Jones is a thousand point scorer in his career with the Mocs. As a junior, he averaged over 14 per game. Jones suffered an ankle injury in early December. Despite missing the game, his Chattanooga team went into Dayton and beat the Flyers by two points. As reported by WDEF-TV, Jones was considering re-entering the lineup as recently as late February. However, reports during the conference tournament said that he is out for the remainder of the season.
Jameel McKay, Iowa State Senior Forward
Jameel McKay has been hampered throughout the season with a knee injury. He also fell out of graces with coach Prohm in mid-February, and missed action during a short-lived “indefinite suspension.” We all know how thin Iowa State’s bench is after Naz Long’s season-ending injury. It will be important to monitor not only McKay’s health, but his production level, while he potentially plays injured headed into the postseason.
Cameron Ridley, Texas Senior Center
Shaka Smart’s Longhorns have played lights out since the start of 2016. Cam Ridley played sparingly in a Big 12 Championship quarterfinal game, which is an added bonus for Texas. His size and experience can help greatly in the tournament setting. However, the Longhorns have found chemistry without him. Prince Ibeh has risen from a role player, who grabs rebounds and defends in spurts, to one of college basketball’s premiere shot-blockers. Coach Smart has kept the entire cast of highly talented guards, including Isaiah Taylor, who is playing more controlled this season at point guard. Cameron Ridley would make Texas an even more frightening opponent come March Madness.
Amida Brimah, UCONN Junior Center
The big man missed 11 games with a broken finger. When he returned, he blocked just 6 shots in his first five games back. For a guy who had 9 rejections in the first game of the season, this is noticeable. We can assume Brimah is 100% health-wise come March Madness. However, can a guy who is notably a raw talent get back into an effective rhythm and protect the rim? In a American Conference tournament game, he showed that he is back to full strength against a tough Cincinatti bunch. Brimah registered 47 minutes in the quadruple overtime game, scoring 10, boarding 9 and blocking 5.