Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli Sprains MCL & PCLPosted by Gerald Smith on October 28th, 2011
Vanderbilt’s hopes to challenge for a high NCAA Tournament seed have become a little more complicated. Senior center Festus Ezeli sprained the MCL and PCL ligaments in his right knee during Tuesday’s practice. Luckily for the preseason All-SEC Second-Teamer, the injury does not require surgery and he should return within six to eight weeks.
Senior forward Steve Tchiengang will likely replace Ezeli as the starting center. Redshirt freshman Josh Henderson was already planning to see more action due to Ezeli’s NCAA-mandated six-game suspension for ineligible benefits. Now Tchingang and Henderson will need to extend their roles through nearly every significant non-conference game for the Commodores: November 21 vs. either Texas or Oregon State in the TicketCity Legends Classic Finals; November 28 vs. Xavier featuring the recently reinstated 7-footer Kenny Frease; and December 2 at Louisville where Ezeli was expected to be productive against Cardinal centers Gorgui Dieng and Stephan Van Treese.
Tchiengang has a better outside shot than Ezeli but lacks Ezeli’s size to defend bulkier players one-on-one. Henderson has the size but lacks the experience Ezeli brings to Kevin Stallings’ team. We wonder if this will force Kevin Stallings to bring his power-forwards (Lance Goulbourne and Rod Odom) closer to the paint and further away from the perimeter. Last season Goulbourne, Odom and Tchiengang (playing in the power forward position) devastated teams with their 3-point shooting.
If Ezeli can return before the Christmas holiday, his first game back could be either a feel-good home romp (December 19 vs. Longwood, December 21 vs. Lafayette) or the last non-conference road challenge for Vandy (December 29 at Marquette). Non-Festusvius is a bad holiday for the rest of us.