March Madness 2023 is underway and this article is tracking the most important injuries to monitor. That includes watching how teams are adjusting after losing stars. Don’t fill out your 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket before checking on the health statuses here!
BY MATTY D.
The new headline is to track the status of a starting guard for the odds-on favorite to win the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Marcus Sasser missed the AAC Championship game against Memphis and is questionable going forward.
Unfortunately, this update also comes as one of the best players on one of the best teams just tore his ACL. Zakai Zeigler, the 5-9 spark plug for the Vols offense and defense just suffered the injury on the eve of March. Despite the cruel turn of events for this surging sophomore, he took to Twitter with a very positive message:
Aside from Zeigler’s major injury, there are many student athletes still in recovery mode. Here are the top 11 injuries to monitor while those players are nursing different ailments. See more of a summary of how this affects each team in alphabetical order below.
Top Injuries to Monitor across College Basketball
To recap, here is a top 10 list (plus some) of the most important injuries to monitor:
14. Jett Howard – Michigan guard
13. Chucky Hepburn – Wisconsin guard
12. Moussa Cisse – Oklahoma State center
11. Anthony Anderson III – Oklahoma State guard
– – – – – – – – – PROJECTED CUT – – – – – – – – –
11. Nijel Pack – Miami guard
10. Efton Reid III – Gonzaga center
9. Federiko Federiko – Pittsburgh center
8. Kendrick Davis – Memphis guard
7. Timmy Allen – Texas forward
6. Ben Vander Plas – Virginia forward
5. Zach Freemantle – Xavier forward
4. Keyonte George – Baylor guard
3. *Jaylen Clark – UCLA wing
2. *Zakai Zeigler – Tennessee guard
1. Marcus Sasser – Houston guard
In the case of 2 of the top 3 injuries here, there is no chance for a recovery. Both Jaylen Clark and Zakai Zeigler are *out for the remainder of the season. In these and similar cases, we are monitoring the team adjustments instead of the personal recoveries.
Players recently returned from injury add to resurgent college basketball teams
It’s not all bad news on this list. In fact, there’s a strong handful of players who are recently back into lineups and taking their teams to the next level. Nick Smith Jr. is adding a scoring punch to an Arkansas lineup that suddenly has found itself on the bubble. Justin Moore has a month under his belt after a torn Achilles. His Villanova Wildcats looks like Nova once again. And Dariq Whitehead has been back for Duke with the Blue Devils finally safely off the bubble.
See more about each team affected in alphabetical order below.
Arkansas and its future NBA lottery pick Nick Smith Jr. navigates knee “management”
Nick Smith Jr. returned to action on February 11th after missing nearly two months with “knee management.” He played just 21 game minutes in his first pair of games, but then averaged around 35 minutes after that. In fact, he played all 40 minutes in a close matchup against the Alabama Roll Tide in a game the Razorbacks were fighting from behind for most of. He dropped 24 points and grabbed 6 points in that game. It looks like Nick Smith Jr. is back to his NBA prospect self, but check his injury status pregame during March Madness just in case!
Baylor back in the habit of reloading talent
Keyonte George missed a game at Oklahoma State in late February, but it almost didn’t matter. The freshman shooting guard has glided right into a productive role with Baylor this season. But in his absence, the Baylor Bears just reloaded again. This team is already accustomed to losing one or two first round picks to the NBA every year. Now, it’s also been in the unfortunate habit of having injured players miss some of all of the season. Baylor has been in postseason position and jockeying for the Big 12 title this season, despite not having veteran forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. Now he is back.
In that Oklahoma State game that George missed with an ankle sprain, seldom used guard Dale Bonner filed right in with 15 points in 32 minutes. He had rarely played in the previous few games. Baylor coach Scott Drew has an abundance of riches. This team should be feared as a top pick to win it all.
Duke started its season without the services of All-American freshmen, center Dereck Lively II and small forward Dariq Whitehead. In late February, Duke had a completely clean injury report according to Covers.com. Still, double-check these youthful Dukies for any bumps and bruises.
Gonzaga monitors the injury status of its rim protector off the bench Efton Reid III
If the Gonzaga Bulldogs are going to make a deep run in the tournament, they need to stand tall at the rim. After 7-foot something Chet Holmgren left for the NBA, the Bulldogs were a little thin on the inside. They added Efton Reid III, a big man from LSU. When Reid popped up on the injury report in late February, it was a concern for Gonzaga’s overall depth.
Reid has returned to action in March, but has played sparingly. He logged only four minutes in the WCC Championship game against St. Mary’s.
Memphis monitors a motley crew of injuries to its ball-handlers
Point guard Keynote Kennedy punched a wall after a loss to Houston and effectively sidelined himself for the rest of the regular season. He was the Tigers third leading scorer. Its top scorer and senior transfer Kendrick Davis also missed that game with a bad ankle. Davis averages around 21 points a game. Both of these teams are worth monitoring as Memphis will likely be an underdog in both its own conference tournament and if/when it makes the NCAA Basketball Tournament. They’ll need all hands on deck (and not against walls).
Miami misses Nijel Pack in a game they’d like to have back
Florida State stormed back to beat the Miami Hurricanes in a game their tournament seeding will likely want back. Florida State isn’t good this year. However, it’s important to note that K-State transfer guard Nijel Pack missed that game for Miami with a lower body injury. Watch this injury closely so that Miami doesn’t suffer anymore surprises.
Michigan plays it safe with Jett Howard’s injury, looks to get on right side of bubble
The coach’s son Jett Howard missed the Wisconsin game with an ankle injury in late February where the Wolverines nearly lost. One more loss in a close game like this might cost Michigan its tournament berth. Watch Jett Howard’s status. He is averaging 14.4 points per game for a Michigan team that can struggle at times to score.
(Missouri’s Kobe Brown out with an illness February 26th – should be short term).
Oklahoma State tournament chances on thin ice while starting center and guards out
It’s never good to have your starting center and starting guard out while you’re trying to play your way off the bubble. But that’s exactly the position that Oklahoma State finds itself in. Moussa Cisse and Anthony Anderson III are both missing time as we roll into March. Anderson’s injury might be more long-standing with him dealing with a wrist injury.
Pittsburgh wins play-in-game despite not having a center in the starting lineup
The nation learned who Federiko Federiko was on Tuesday night as the tournament tipped off with its play-in games. The Panthers center was listed as a game time decision, according to Pittsburgh Sports now, but he ended up sitting out the game while nursing a knee injury. The nation watched as the Panthers battled to win a tight one point game against Mississippi State. Jorge Diaz Graham did a nice job as a substitute center, stretching Miss St. center Tolu Smith outside of the paint. The smaller lineup worked out for Pittsburgh.
(TCU’s Eddie Lampkin Jr. out with undisclosed injury late February).
Tennessee suffers major blow with Zakai Ziegler’s injury
Ziegler’s injury leaves the Vols very thin at point guard. The Volunteers just lost Kennedy Chandler to the NBA (and Memphis Grizzlies) after a one-and-done campaign. Shooting guard Santiago Vescovi is expected to do more ball handling. Tyreke Key is also expected to get more minutes.
Wisconsin watches Chucky Hepburn’s injury status
Wisconsin’s starting point guard Chucky Hepburn missed some minutes against Michigan in a critical game to finish February. He remains on the injury report with a lower body injury. Hepburn played the last few games for the Badgers, including a first round win against Bradley in the NIT Tournament.
Xavier’s Zach Freemantle ruled out for remainder of the season
For a second straight season, Zach Freemantle’s foot is finding itself on the injury report at the most inconvenient time. As March began, the power forward was ruled out for the remainder of the season. This leaves a gaping hole in the front-court of Sean Miller’s core unit. Fellow big man Jack Nunge will now need to continue (Freemantle has been out for weeks) picking up the slack on the boards and with help defense. The power forward was enjoying the fruits of a veteran team playing winning basketball with Sean Miller’s return to the Musketeers sidelines. Xavier is a 3 seed and will play against upset-minded 14 seed Kennesaw State. Kennesaw State has surged onto the national radar with an impressive program turnaround against coach Amir Abdur-Rahim.
UCLA loses super athletic wing Jaylen Clark for the season in major postseason loss
UCLA has a major problem on its hands. Despite how consistent guards Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. have been over their careers, the Bruins rely on some offense you can’t draw up. This is where Jaylen Clark has come into play. He is a great slasher, finisher, and just the type of super athletic wing who you don’t have to feed the ball to in order to get productivity. His athleticism finds a way. Clark had more than doubled his offensive productivity from a season ago and averaged 16 points a game. He gave Campbell and Jaquez a great third option in the early or late stages of a shot clock. And Clark is a great defender. Now, UCLA will head into the tournament without their most athletic wing. This is a major problem.
Staff writer Ben Bolch of the LA Times writes how UCLA’s title chances aren’t over with Clark’s season-ending Achilles injury. I would disagree.
Bolch points to how UCLA went 6-1 while freshman guard Amari Bailey was out for a month with a foot injury. This is an apples to oranges comparison to the superior athleticism that Jaylen Clark brings on the floor. Bailey is a primary ball-handler, which UCLA already has in full supply with Tyger Campbell. Instead of thinking about Bailey as a replacement, freshman Dylan Andrews is more of the prototypical wing who Bruins fans need to look forward to stepping up.
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