O26 Shake-Up: Assessing an Ugly Week of Suspensions & Injuries

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 4th, 2014

The past 10 days have been especially fraught with injuries and suspensions and ineligibility rulings, many of which are sure to affect conference races across the Other 26. Let’s examine some of the major losses and their impact as the season approaches:

Isaac Fotu's career could be over at Hawaii. (Photos courtesy Charles Simmons / www.chasingthemomentphoto.com)

Isaac Fotu’s career might be over at Hawaii. (Charles Simmons/chasingthemomentphoto.com)

Isaac Fotu – F – Hawaii. Just a couple days after head coach Gib Arnold was abruptly fired, Hawaii lost its best player last week when Fotu was ruled ineligible due to an ongoing improper benefits investigation. The 6’8’’ all-conference forward averaged 14.9 PPG and 6.1 RPG a year ago and figured to at least keep the Warriors competitive in the Big West. Without him, the outlook is much grimmer. Christian Standhardinger – last year’s leading scorer and rebounder – graduated and starting point guard Keith Shamburger transferred to Missouri, leaving shooting guard Garrett Nevels (13.1 PPG) as Hawaii’s lone returning starter. In fact, he will be the only returner who averaged more than five points per game in 2013-14, meaning Hawaii is effectively a collection of young, unproven players adapting to a new coach with the season opener right around the corner. If Fotu does not return – which appears to be the case, as of late Monday night – this could be a rough season in Honolulu.

Kyle Vinales – G – Central Connecticut State. This was supposed to be a bounce-back season for CCSU after a 2013-14 campaign marred by setbacks. Vinales, the team’s leading scorer who missed an important chunk of NEC play last year, was set to return along with nearly every other major contributor, including third team all-conference forward Faronte Drakeford. The Blue Devils were even picked second in the preseason conference poll, a testament to the high expectations. Then news hit last week that Vinales had been arrested and charged with third degree assault and disorderly conduct following an altercation with his girlfriend, the allegations so serious that the all-conference guard was immediately suspended indefinitely. With his court date set for December 5, CCSU will likely be without its best player for at least the first three weeks of the season, if not much, much longer. Can the Blue Devils adjust? Sure. Guys like Drakeford and point guard Malcolm McMillan were forced to take on larger roles last year, so they are accustomed to change. But Vinales’ offensive skills are largely unmatched and he took nearly a third of the team’s shots while he was on the floor. If he never returns – a real possibility, considering the chargers – a top-three finish for CCSU seems far less likely.

Alex Rosenberg – F – Columbia.  Rosenberg fractured his right foot on October 24, sidelining him for 6-8 weeks and possibly altering the Ivy League projections. The 6’7’’ senior was Columbia’s best offensive weapon in 2013-14, both in terms of scoring (16.2 PPG) and efficiency (118.5 ORtg, highest among significant contributors), so his value should not be underestimated. While Kyle Smith’s grinding style should keep the Lions relatively competitive during non-conference play, they will need a healthy Rosenberg when conference games begin on January 17th if they expect to finish near the top of the standings, like many expect. There is little margin for error in the tournament-less Ivy League.

Columbia's high hopes may be dashed in Alex Rosenberg is unable to return to health this season. (Kiera Wood / Columbia Spectator).

Columbia’s high hopes may be dashed if Alex Rosenberg can’t return to health this year. (Kiera Wood/Columbia Spectator)

Denton Koon – F – Princeton. Roughly a week after Rosenberg went down for Columbia, Princeton forward Denton Koon – who missed the second half of last season with a knee ailment – suffered another knee injury and will miss the first half of 2014-15. The 6’8’’ senior averaged 10.5 PPG two years ago and 7.7 PPG last year in 18 games, and figured to play an even more prominent role this season following the graduation of frontcourt mates Will Barrett and Hans Brase. Like Rosenberg at Columbia, whether Koon comes back healthy in time for Ivy League play could significantly impact Princeton’s spot in the standings.

Major Canady – G – Drexel. The Dragons are horribly unlucky. In 2012-13, sharpshooter Chris Fouch went down with a broken foot just three games into the season. Last year, Damion Lee – perhaps the team’s best player – tore his ACL in the preseason NIT. Then forward Kazembe Abif tore his ACL in April, forcing him to miss this season. And now Canady, expected to start at point guard following the graduation of Frantz Massenat, is done for the year after injuring his ankle last week. Losing Canady is a big blow for a unit already seriously limited in terms of primary ball-handling experience, so it’s hard to imagine Drexel finishing higher than middle of the pack in the CAA, even with a healthy Lee.

Jamal Aytes – F – Brigham Young. When he becomes eligible in December, the 6’6’’ UNLV transfer was expected to be an important frontcourt contributor in the absence of star forward Erik Mika, who left for his two year LDS mission. But BYU announced on Saturday that Aytes will miss three months as a result of ankle surgery, meaning big guys like Nate Austin (7.9 RPG), Josh Sharp and Luke Worthington will have to shoulder more of the frontcourt load without both Mika and Aytes. Despite being thin in the paint, though, BYU should still be an NCAA Tournament-caliber unit with Tyler Haws (23.2 PPG) and Kyle Collinsworth (14 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 4.6 APG) back at the helm.

Dwaun Anderson – G – Wagner. News hit Monday that the high-flying Anderson broke a bone in his foot during a scrimmage against Dartmouth over the weekend, requiring surgery and sidelining the guard for two months. That’s very unfortunate for Wagner, which lost lost four major contributors to graduation and two others to transfer this offseason. Anderson, a former Michigan State transfer, figured to assume a much larger role for Bashir Mason in 2014-15, so while anything could happen in this year’s wide-open NEC, the shorthanded Seahawks may be hard-pressed to finish in the league’s top-half.

Giovanni McLean – G – Quinnipiac. McLean, an incoming transfer, was ruled ineligible yesterday in the wake of a transcript-forging investigation at Westchester Community College, his former school. Quinnipiac could have used McLean’s backcourt skills following the graduation of backcourt duo Shaq Shannon and Umar Shannon, but the Bobcats should still remain in the MAAC’s upper tier this season.

Phil Valenti – F – Canisius. The Griffins are looking to readjust after losing Billy Baron to graduation, so it came as unwelcome news when the school announced on Thursday that the 6’7’’ Valenti, an expected starter, will miss a few weeks with a bum ankle. It doesn’t sound too serious, but it’s never something you want to hear with the season less than two weeks away.

Derrick Marks – G – Boise State. Marks, one of the Mountain West’s better scorers, is suspended for Boise State’s first two exhibition games and either its regular season opener against San Diego, or the following contest against Loyola-Marymount. Both games are part of the LMU Classic. Not a huge deal, but definitely worth keeping an eye on considering it’s the second suspension of the senior’s career.

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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