Cameron Ridley’s Injury May Keep Texas Out of the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Chris Stone on January 8th, 2016

On December 28, Texas’ season took a dramatic turn for the worse when it announced that center Cameron Ridley fractured his left foot during practice and would be out indefinitely. In the team’s first 11 games, Ridley had finally realized the potential that had made him a top-10 recruit in the 2012 recruiting class. The senior was putting together the best year of his career, averaging 12.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. What’s more, it seemed like the Longhorns were also turning a corner. After three early season losses, they had won six in a row that included an 84-82 thriller over North Carolina. In Shaka Smart’s first season, Texas appeared to be building a resume fit for an NCAA Tournament team. And then Ridley was injured.

Cameron Ridley was having a career season before breaking his foot. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

Cameron Ridley was having a career season before breaking his foot. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

One day after the announcement, UConn picked apart a Texas defense playing without its best shot-blocker (Ridley owned a 13.9 percent block rate, third-best nationally). The Huskies made 15 of their 22 shots at the rim en route to handing the Longhorns their first of two more defeats. Not having to deal with the big man’s 3.4 blocks per game clearly made a difference. With Ridley in the lineup, opponents shot just 40 percent inside the three-point arc. In the three games since, with Prince Ibeh playing in a starting role and no clear backup, Texas’ opponents are attempting 6.3 percent more field goals from two-point range, according to data compiled from They are also converting those attempts at a much higher rate, making 51.4 percent of those two-pointers. Without Ridley’s looming presence in the paint, opponents have been able to find and convert easy attempts against a Texas defense no longer able to field a semi-permanent rim protector.

Results on the offensive end, where Ridley attempted 23.1 percent of the Longhorns’ shots, have deteriorated as well. Texas’ guards have predictably taken on more responsibility, attempting an additional six shots per game, with the majority of those attempts coming from the three-point line. With Ridley in the lineup, Texas took 36.7 percent of its shots from behind the arc; absent their big man, that share has ticked up to 44.2 percent. What’s more concerning for Smart is that Texas has only converted 28.4 percent of those attempts in his absence. Three games is a small sample size, but the early results do not compare favorably to the 37.7 percent the Longhorns had shot in their first 11 games.

Ridley’s injury has made Texas’ road to the NCAA Tournament significantly more difficult. The Longhorns have one remaining non-conference game — on the road against Vanderbilt in the Big 12/SEC Challenge later this month — a fitting matchup given the Commodores are going through similar adjustment pains without center Luke Kornet. That game will give Texas an opportunity to pick up another resume-enhancing win, but unless the Longhorns can successfully work through these new issues, it feels likely that the NCAA Tournament will be played without them. KenPom now projects Texas to finish at 7-11 in the Big 12 — which means 15 losses and an under-.500 record. Ridley has said that he would like to return to action before the end of Big 12 play, but the Longhorns in the meantime will need to replace his production elsewhere — something they’ve struggled to do in their first few games without the senior in the lineup.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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