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February 23, 2009

Medical reports bring both good, bad news

Jeff Capel, Jim Calhoun and Roy Williams have something in common this week.

Besides leading top-five teams that lost in the past seven days, the coaches have spent their fair share of time getting bad news from team trainers.

On the verge of the No. 1 ranking the country, Oklahoma lost player of the year candidate Blake Griffin to a concussion before losing to Texas. The Sooners could lose the top spot in the Big 12 standings, too, if Kansas beats them tonight.

A masterful game by Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair against Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet was the top story line from the Huskies' loss to the Panthers last Monday. But a sidebar from that game was the absence of UConn starting guard Jerome Dyson, who is out for the season.

Not to be left out, North Carolina finally felt the sting of defensive specialist Marcus Ginyard's season-ending injury when Greivis Vasquez ignited Maryland's upset of the Tar Heels on Saturday.

In the final weeks of the regular season and into the conference and NCAA tournaments, injuries and returns from injuries will shape the national picture. Here's a primer on medical issues for the coming weeks.

F Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
Despite getting only 11 minutes from their star, the Sooners nearly beat Texas on the road Saturday. Freshman guard Willie Warren was magnificent with 27 points, but a prolonged loss of Griffin would hurt Oklahoma. The Sooners lost their chance to be ranked No. 1 this week by losing to the Longhorns. No Griffin against Kansas on Monday could cost the Sooners the Big 12 regular-season title, too.

G Jerome Dyson, Connecticut
The Huskies got their first taste of life without Dyson in the loss to Pittsburgh. Hasheem Thabeet's struggles played a role in UConn's loss, but so did Dyson's absence. Coach Jim Calhoun said Dyson would have been guarding Pitt point guard Levance Fields late in the game, when Fields hit two 3-pointers to give the Panthers a six-point lead. Craig Austrie and freshman Kemba Walker will fill in for Dyson. They combined for 18 points against Pittsburgh and 11 against USF.

G Stephen Curry, Davidson
As Curry's ankle goes, so goes Davidson's season. Without Curry against The Citadel, the Wildcats fell apart in a 64-46 home loss. Curry returned in the BracketBuster game against Butler, but he was not 100 percent and missed his first eight shots from the field before finishing 6-for-23 with 20 points and seven turnovers. Despite the injury, Davidson should be the top seed in the Southern Conference tournament. If the ankle injury lingers, Davidson could be in trouble in the league tournament.

G Marcus Ginyard, North Carolina
Ginyard's absence didn't affect North Carolina that much for most of the season. But Saturday, Williams could have used his best defender in College Park when Greivis Vasquez had a triple-double (35 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) in an 88-85 upset of the Tar Heels. Foot problems ended Ginyard's season after only three games. In his absence, four other guards have topped 30 points against the Heels Wake Forest's Jeff Teague, Florida State's Toney Douglas, Miami's Jack McClinton and Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney. UNC did get a little good news on the injury front last week when freshman big man Tyler Zeller returned. He missed 23 games with a broken left wrist.

G Patrick Mills, Saint Mary's
With Mills, Saint Mary's was 18-1 overall, 5-0 in the West Coast Conference and riding a 15-game winning streak. But the Gaels lost four of their next six games after losing Mills to a broken wrist. While Saint Mary's has recovered in the past two weeks with three consecutive wins, the Gaels (22-5, 8-4) may need to win the conference tournament to make the field. The good news is that Mills is expected back for the conference tourney.

G Rob Lowery, Dayton
The Flyers moved into a tie for the Atlantic 10 lead by beating Xavier 71-58 on Feb. 11, but that came at a price. Lowery, Dayton's sixth man and third-leading scorer, was lost for the season with a knee injury. The Flyers (23-4, 9-3) lost 57-49 to Saint Louis on Saturday and won't face a team with a losing conference record in their final four games, including a road trip to Xavier (22-5, 10-3) on March 5.

F Patrick Patterson, Kentucky
Patterson's absence led to a 77-64 loss at Vanderbilt that dropped Kentucky back into a four-way tie for the SEC East lead. His return could help the Wildcats seal a first-round bye in the conference tournament and an NCAA tournament bid. In his first game back after missing two games with a sprained ankle, Patterson scored 19 points in a 77-58 win over Tennessee to keep them in a tie for the division lead. The Wildcats still must face South Carolina and Florida on the road and SEC-leader LSU at home. With Patterson back, guard Jodie Meeks won't have to provide all of UK's offense.

F Robbie Hummel, Purdue
Hummel can't catch a break. After missing three games with a sore back Purdue lost two of them and being hampered in countless others, Hummel continued to get banged-up in a win over Indiana on Saturday. He hurt his knee on a fall and suffered a sore neck and head after running into a screen set by an Indiana player. Hummel still is missing practice time and likely will be day to day for the rest of the season, coach Matt Painter said.

F Raymar Morgan, Michigan State
Morgan appears to be recovering from an illness that has limited him since January. Morgan came off the bench for 14 minutes in a loss to Purdue and 17 minutes in a win over Wisconsin. Before last week, he has missed three consecutive games and played a total of 11 minutes in the two games before that. Morgan hasn't scored more than eight points in a game since Jan. 14. The health of Morgan and Purdue's Hummel could determine the Big Ten title when the teams meet March 8.

F David Lighty, Ohio State
Experience is a major advantage this time of the season, and Ohio State is holding out hope to add some as the postseason nears. Lighty returned to practice Saturday, but was so sore he couldn't walk the next day, the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch reported. Lighty, the only player on the Buckeyes' roster who appeared in the 2007 Final Four, needed surgery to repair a broken bone in his right foot after seven games. Lighty was expected to miss 6-12 weeks. He's at the 10-week mark now and still needs more recovery time.

G Chris Warren, Ole Miss
Warren was off to a torrid start before a torn anterior cruciate ligament ended his season. Warren's loss was the biggest setback for Ole Miss, but not the first. The Rebels got only four combined games out of two other key players, guard Trevor Gaskins and swingman Eniel Polynice. Ole Miss is 6-6 in the SEC without the trio; the Rebels likely would be an NCAA contender if they were healthy.

G Brandon Johnson, San Diego
San Diego made the NCAA tournament field last season and returned all five starters this season, lending hope the Toreros would make it two NCAA appearances in a row. But Johnson, the team's point guard and leading scorer last season, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the eighth game, and San Diego hasn't been the same. The Toreros are 14-14 and seem likely to miss the postseason entirely.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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