NCAA Tournament First-Round Injuries Bettors Should Know
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Injured senior Virginia Tech Hokies guard Justin Robinson (5).
The NCAA Tournament bracket is set, but the rosters for the individual teams are not. There are several key injury updates that savvy bettors are waiting to hear before placing their wagers.
Here’s the latest information on the most important injury questions before the tournament starts in full on Thursday.
Update: Wildcats star P.J. Washington has been ruled out for Thursday’s game against Abilene Christian. He was in a walking boot earlier this week, though there’s not much known about his injury.
Update: The junior guard missed the last two games for Syracuse with a sore back. He left the game against Clemson on Mar. 9 after landing on his tailbone.
Battle (17.2 ppg) returned to practice on Sunday and head coach Jim Boeheim expects him to be 100% for the opening round game against Baylor on Thursday. He has the highest offensive usage of any Syracuse player and plays almost 85% of the team’s minutes.
Team: Virginia Tech
Update: No injured player’s return is more important to his team than Justin Robinson (13.7 ppg, 41.1% 3P) is to the Hokies. The senior guard missed Virginia Tech’s last 12 games due to a lingering foot injury. He will play in the NCAA Tournament, but how effective he’ll be, we’re not sure.
Before that, the Hokies were 17-3 overall and ranked 12th in the country. Robinson is shooting 41.1% from beyond the arc and 83% from the foul line. He is also great defensively, averaging 1.8 steals per game. If he returns fully healthy, the Hokies are a legitimate Final Four threat.
Team: Kansas State
Update: The Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year is essential for the Wildcats to make a deep run in their bracket. However, his prognosis in the most unclear of any player on this list. Head coach Bruce Weber said he was “hopeful” Wade was making progress.
That is an ominous statement for Wade, who has made consecutive All-Big 12 first teams the last two seasons. The 6-foot-8 forward averages 12.8 ppg and 6.2 rpg, while shooting 41.8% from 3P.
The guess here is the Wildcats hold Wade out of Friday’s first round game against UC Irvine, hoping to have him available on Sunday if they advance.
Update: Another player essential to his team’s success, VCU’s Marcus Evans (13.8 ppg) is the key offensive cog for the defensive reliant Rams.
VCU is brilliant defensively, ranking seventh overall in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Rams are also third best in effective field goal percentage allowed and 3P% allowed.
However, they struggle on offense and need Evans healthy. If he can’t play at his normal level, the Rams 330th best 3P% and 280th rank in offensive turnover percentage will be too much to overcome.
Kyle Ahrens, Cassius Winston
Team: Michigan State
Update: The Spartans have been battling injuries all season, and lost Kyle Ahrens (4.7 ppg) for the tournament with a back injury in their Big Ten title win.
He was a role player, making the lingering knee tendinitis and toe injury of Cassius Winston (18.9 ppg) much more important. The junior guard was spectacular in the last win over Michigan, scoring 14 points and dishing out 11 assists.
He is the engine to the Spartans’ success and is one of the best players in the country at creating shots for his teammates. Despite the injuries, Winston hasn’t missed a game all season and will be ready to go against Bradley on Thursday night.
Update: The 6-foot-11 freshman missed Belmont’s Ohio Valley title game loss to Murray State with an ankle injury. Muszynski (14.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 38.9% 3P) needs to play well for Belmont to earn its first-ever NCAA Tournament win.
He ranks third on the team in points per game, third in rebounds per game, and first in blocks per game. Head coach Rick Byrd said the freshman big man will be ready to play tonight against Temple.
Sterling Manley, Leaky Black
Team: North Carolina
Update: Sophomore Sterling Manley (3.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg) returned on March 3 after missing 16 games with a knee injury. The 6-foot-11 forward has played sparingly since but could provide valuable minutes in the tournament if healthy.
Freshman Leaky Black (2.9 ppg, 45.5% 3P) has missed the last 13 games with an ankle injury, but all signs point to his return on Friday against Iona. He will be a nice bench asset for a North Carolina team that loves to push the pace.