Hummel Out For The Season With Torn ACL

Posted by jstevrtc on October 16th, 2010

Earlier today, Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman broke the news that Purdue’s Robbie Hummel will be out for the 2010-11 season with a torn right ACL. Goodman’s article says that Purdue’s assistant SID Cory Walton confirmed to him that Hummel suffered the injury on Saturday morning during practice. In fact, a Tweet from Goodman earlier in the day stated that it happened on just the second drill of the practice.

This Is Hummel's Second Right ACL Tear Within Eight Months.

Hummel averaged 15.7 PPG and 6.9 RPG last season for a Purdue team that seemed to be peaking at the right time and destined for a deep tournament run before he went down with a tear of the same ACL in the team’s 27th game, a February 24th contest at Minnesota. Even though the Boilermakers still have senior guard E’Twaun Moore (last year’s team scoring leader with 16.4 PPG)  and big man JaJuan Johnson (15.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG) still available and ready to roll, Hummel was considered the emotional leader and his loss is devastating to the squad.

This is even more tragic considering that, just last night, during ESPN-U’s Midnight Madness coverage, Hummel was interviewed by the network’s college hoops guru Andy Katz about how Hummel’s knee was faring. Hummel cited the usual caution associated with the recovery from such an injury, but seemed optimistic, and happy that he’d been cleared to play. Then, mere hours later at the Saturday morning practice, Hummel re-injured the knee.

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Miss Chriqui, Stanford’s Andy Brown Deserves You

Posted by jstevrtc on August 23rd, 2010

If we read tomorrow that Stanford forward Andy Brown bought a winning lottery ticket, we wouldn’t be surprised.  Or maybe some other good fortune awaits him. Perhaps he’ll be discovered by Martin Scorcese during a drama class. Maybe he’ll bump into someone like Amy Adams or the girl who plays Sloan from Entourage at a Palo Alto coffee shop and they’ll find him irresistible.

You see, at some point soon, Andy Brown’s luck has to change. When it does, we hope we’re standing right next to him.

We read over the weekend that Brown will miss the 2010-11 basketball season because of a torn ACL in his left knee. Before you refresh the page, we’ll tell you that this is not a recycled story from last year. He tore that same ligament in that same knee on the first day of practice last season, forcing him to take a medical redshirt for 2009-10.  What’s more, he suffered the same injury back in January 2009 as a high school senior. That’s three left ACL tears in 20 months.

Someday, Andy...someday.

Setting aside for a moment the obvious physical toll this takes on a person, consider the mental aspect, and the pattern of these injuries. Brown injured his left knee as a senior in high school, ending his prep career early — not exactly something easy for an 18-year old kid to deal with. Then, after surgery, rehab, and getting himself over the mental hurdles inherent in resuming any physical activity — let alone that of a major Division I college basketball player — the moment he’s waited for arrives, the first day of practice as a member of the Cardinal. Boom, he re-tears the ACL, the whole season lost.  Another surgery. More rehab. Most people at that point would be afraid to move their entire leg at all, but Brown somehow found the guts to get back out on the court on a twice-repaired knee. And how is Brown rewarded for his courage? A third tear in the same knee during a pick-up game a few days ago.  Again, season lost. More surgery. More rehab.

Brown has to be wondering if his left anterior cruciate ligament was, in fact, the inspiration for the Elijah Price character in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable. If Brown recovers and eventually makes it out onto the floor for the Cardinal in 2011-2012, given what he’s had to endure, it would be nothing short of heroic. We hope it happens, Andy. We’re all rooting for you. In the meantime, we’d suggest playing the California Lottery and hanging out in coffee shops.

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The Loss of Kevin Coble Doesn’t Kill Northwestern’s NCAA Hopes

Posted by rtmsf on July 28th, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.  He is also very familiar with the Chicago area basketball scene.

By now you’ve heard that Kevin Coble will not play for the Northwestern Wildcats during the 2010-11 season, or ever again. The recovery from his broken foot is taking longer than expected, and instead of continuing through grueling rehab with the chance of injuring it again during the season which would come with possible life-altering implications, Coble has decided to hang up his basketball shoes. Of course, this story is getting a lot of national attention because of Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament drought and the fact that “everyone” thought that Coble returning was the magic elixir that was going to solve all of the Wildcats’ problems.

Coble Will Be Missed, But He's Not the Tipping Point

I’m here to tell you that “they” were wrong. Coble’s return wasn’t going to fix the thing that Northwestern has to work on more than anything to make the NCAA Tournament — defense. The Wildcats had one of the most efficient offenses in the country last season. They scored 1.12 points per possession, which ranked 33d in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency statistics. Being the 33d best offense in the country is more than enough to make the NCAA Tournament. The problem was Northwestern’s 169th ranked defense.  If Coble had been able to return at full strength this coming season he still wouldn’t have provided the defensive presence that the Wildcats need. A foot injury is exactly the type of problem that hinders your lateral movement, and it is the key to staying in front of people cutting with the basketball. Even when the doctors say you’re fully recovered, these types of injuries aren’t over. So even if Coble had completed his rehab he’d probably be wondering, “What happens if I try this?” on the basketball court. If you’re taking time to wonder, you’re taking too long.

When Coble was healthy he led the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding, and while his rebounding would be nice to have next season, his scoring wouldn’t have been necessary. Coble was essentially the same player his first three seasons at Northwestern with an offensive rating around 110 in approximately a quarter of the team’s possessions while he was on the court. He also had a rebounding rate of 2.7% on the offensive boards and 15.5% on the defensive boards.  But you know whose numbers were better than that last season? John Shurna. Shurna replaced Coble in the lineup last year and became an even better offensive threat. He’s still improving too. His national team experiences appear to have helped him elevate his game. It’s also worth noting that Drew Crawford as a freshman put up an offensive rating of 107.5 and Michael Thompson put up a ridiculous 115.9 last season. With JerShon Cobb coming in and Alex Marcotullio improving, the Wildcats are surely going to be just as good, if not better, on offense next season.

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Bob Huggins Trips and Breaks Four Ribs

Posted by rtmsf on July 24th, 2010

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins tripped over a coffee table and broke four ribs last night in his hotel room in Las Vegas.  As Gary Parrish first reported on Friday night, Huggins was taken to the hospital and treated with the expectation that he will be released today.  [Update: reports are that he will spend Saturday night in the hospital for further observation.]  The 56-year old coach had a heart attack some eight years ago, but the reports coming out on this story are that this accident had nothing to do with his ticker.

Who Was Huggs' Da'Sean Last Night?

Nevertheless, this incident is the second known situation in a span of just over two years where Huggins has lost his balance and fallen hard enough to be taken to the hospital.  In May 2008, the curmudgeonly coach tripped in the Charlotte airport, hitting his head on the pavement and causing a brief scare although he was ultimately fine.  We hesitate to fall back on the easy “What Happens in Vegas” joke, but considering how far Huggins has come since his DUI arrest in 2004, a little public scrutiny won’t hurt him.  For the sake of his personal and financial health (there is a substance abuse clause in his WVU contract), we hope that these incidents are the result of general clumsiness and nothing more sinister.    After all, given his redemption, we’re actually starting to like the guy.

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‘Eers A Question: Mazzulla Or Bryant?

Posted by jstevrtc on March 30th, 2010

And now…quiz time!

Here’s your vignette.  You have 35 seconds to take a shot:

A week ago, the news went out that West Virginia point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant had fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot and that he’d be out for the season. There was even talk that he’d need surgery to fix the break instead of the usual regimen of ice, rest, and a bulky, annoying stabilizer boot.

Then, the Mountaineers beat Kentucky. Bryant is now medically cleared to play in the Final Four.

Using your knowledge in each of the fields of cybernetics, Bob Huggins‘ black warm-up suit collection, and the “High Risk Zone” of the fifth metatarsal bone, how do you account for the change in Darryl Bryant’s status for the games this weekend?  Please select one answer only:

  • a) Darryl Bryant’s right pinkie toe is an orthopedic and osteologic wonder.  It heals even FASTER than that stoic but awesome liquid robot from Terminator 2, and the words “Bryant Metatarsal” will now be added to our language as something representing a person’s/object’s strong point —  the diametric opposite of “Achilles’ Heel.”  As in: “That’s right, Greg Gumbel, Kentucky’s Achilles’ heels are their 3-point shooting and their perimeter defense, but the ability of Wall, Cousins, and Patterson to get close looks in the lane is their Bryant Metatarsal,” *
  • b) the injury wasn’t as bad as originally thought, and the Truck should never have been parked,
  • c) the “rest of the season” part was added because whoever sent out the press release assumed WVU would lose to UK, thereby rendering their prognosis about Bryant correct…or,
  • d) Bryant’s going to try to tough it out…because it’s the Four.

Time’s up.  If you selected a), then, like us, you’re probably hoping that this really is the case. If you chose b) or c), you’re just cynical and wrong and may show yourself out.  If you chose d), we think you’re right.

Bryant (historically) scores more, but is Mazzulla the better option? (David Smith/AP)

Bryant’s change in status should surprise nobody.  It’s easy to wonder how a guy can go from possibly needing surgery one day to being medically cleared to play the next, but there are three reasons why you could see Bryant on the floor this weekend.  First, in athletes, fixing this type of fracture with surgery instead of the ice/rest/boot combo is gaining popularity as the ideal treatment.  Second, Bryant was fitted for a special orthotic shoe-and-insert on Monday — in Durham, North Carolina, of all places — which could help to allow him to play.  Assuming the insert does not, at some point in the first half, emit a strange royal blue-colored sleeping gas to which all Blue Devils are immune (we’re kidding, Durham-area foot doctors), the device is designed to take some weight off the broken bone and reduce Bryant’s level of pain.

Third…it’s the Final Four.

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West Virginia Loses Darryl Bryant To Broken Foot

Posted by jstevrtc on March 24th, 2010

West Virginia will be without starting sophomore point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant for the rest of the NCAA Tournament.  X-rays taken on Tuesday revealed that Bryant has fractured a bone in the fifth toe of his right foot.  It’s not exactly clear when Bryant sustained the injury, but the cited ESPN.com report above says that he had noticed increased pain in the foot during a recent practice, then today’s imaging showed the broken toe.

The Mountaineers are famous for being chock-full-o-forwards, often playing four forwards and a guard at any given time (they have no true center).  Bryant — who averages 9.3 PPG and 3.1 APG in 24.3 MPG — will most definitely be missed, but he’s not a traditional dime-dishing point guard.  He’s known more for the mental and physical toughness he brings to the table for his team, not so much for his high yield in terms of assists or forcing turnovers.  Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones, and Devin Ebanks — the only three Mountaineers who average more than 30 minutes per game — do most of the ball-handling, and will only see a slight increase in touches, which they probably won’t mind.

The Truck, unfortunately, has a bum wheel. (AP/Mel Evans)

WVU also has a ready replacement in Joe Mazzulla, a 6’2 junior point guard averaging 2.2 PPG and 2.3 APG.  Mazzulla redshirted last year after injuring his shoulder, but has seen steadily increasing minutes throughout the season.  Mazzulla actually played more minutes than Bryant in the Mountaineers’ second-round game against Missouri, and the two had no problem with the Tigers’ vaunted full-court press.  His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5 is higher than Bryant’s 1.5, though Mazzulla did average ten fewer minutes per game.  Any further minutes at the guard position will go to 6’4 junior Casey Mitchell (3.8 PPG, 0.4 APG in 8.3 MPG), who only played three minutes against Missouri but did contribute six points, four assists, and two steals with only one turnover in 11 minutes in WVU’s first round 77-50 win over Morgan State.

There’s been no mention of how severe Bryant’s injury is, but most fifth metatarsal fractures do not require surgery and heal on their own over time with the “conservative” therapies — ice for swelling, no weight-bearing on the foot, and immobilization with a splint or cast.

WVU chief Bob Huggins is certainly no stranger to tournament-time injuries when he’s got a team poised for big things.  Back in 2000 — another year in which the Final Four was held in Indianapolis — his #2-seed Cincinnati squad was a favorite to win it all before Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the Conference USA Tournament, and the Bearcats were subsequently dispatched in the second round by Tulsa.  The next time the Final Four is in Indianapolis and Huggins has a highly rated team, don’t blame the man if he sequesters his whole team in a padded room and locks the door, opening it only for games.

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It’s Official – Kalin Lucas Ruptures Achilles Tendon

Posted by jstevrtc on March 22nd, 2010

You knew it from the way he went down on Sunday afternoon, but an MRI confirmed today that star Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas tore his left Achilles tendon in that amazing second round game against Maryland.

The Spartans and their fans have to be wondering what else can happen to this team.  Michigan State’s players have already achieved more than what could have been expected of them, considering the injuries they’ve sustained:  Lucas is the team’s leading scorer and dime-dropper and is known as one of the mentally toughest players in the game.  Delvon Roe was visibly limping in the Maryland game on a right knee that’s already endured one surgery, Chris Allen could only go for four minutes because of a right foot injury he suffered in the first tournament game against New Mexico State, and Raymar Morgan has a busted tooth.

Mutual Support: Izzo and Lucas (AP/Rajah Bose)

If Tom Izzo and his banged-up squad want to get by a Northern Iowa team playing mesmerizing basketball right now, not only do they need more minutes and more production from already hurting players, they also need some serious help from the bench.  Korie Lucious averaged 22 minutes and 5.2 points a game during the season, but played 27 minutes and contributed 13 points including the game-winner on Sunday.  He and Draymond Green are the two Spartans who immediately come to mind as far as who has to really step up now.  Specifically at the guard position, Lucious and Durrell Summers can look forward to playing almost every minute if Allen can’t go.  Junior Mike Kebler (4.0 MPG in 22 games, 0.4 PPG), a former walk-on, played eight minutes against the Terrapins and could see even more time, now.  Derrick Nix (7.8 MPG and 2.5 PPG), a 6’5 and 280-pound freshman, and 6’5 sophomore Austin Thornton (5.7 MPG in 30 games, 1.1 PPG, also a former walk-on) can provide relief minutes at the forward positions; both saw time against Maryland, contributing eight and four points, respectively.

If you’d like to learn more about Lucas’ injury, read on:

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Will Irish Get Harangody Back This Season?

Posted by jstevrtc on March 1st, 2010

Today, ESPN.com reported Notre Dame coach Mike Brey’s announcement that Luke Harangody might not return this year because of a right knee injury he suffered in a game against Seton Hall on February 11th.  The injury, diagnosed as a bone bruise, is one that can take — don’t shoot the messenger, Irish fans — months to heal.

“Bone bruise” sounds like a vague term, but it actually provides a good description of what’s happening in this injury.  We associate the word “bruise” with bleeding and leakage of other fluids under the skin that makes that reddish or bluish blotch happen when we bang into something or when something bangs into us.  That’s pretty much what’s happening here, but instead of some external force being applied to a part of the body that causes blood vessels under our skin to break — like bumping into a table, or taking a punch with your face — this is happening within the bone itself.

An MRI of the knee (not Harangody's). The white part in the bone? There's your bruise. The bright white stuff in the middle is fluid inside the joint. (image: images.conquestchronicles.com)

When talking about a bone bruise of the knee, you’re usually talking about a force that goes through the joint, meaning along the length of the bone.  In other words, there’s been a downward, compressive force that has caused the femur (the big bone in the thigh) to press down on the tibia (the biggest of the two lower leg bones).  When that happens, vessels break along the tough, thick outer covering of the bone, leaking blood and other fluid into the bone space.  Because of that thick outer covering, that inflammatory fluid tends to build up and stay in that part of the bone — and that’s what causes the pain.

An x-ray (to check for a fracture) and usually an MRI are then done to make sure none of the stuff inside the knee (like ligaments and other stuff not visible on an x-ray) has been screwed up.  The ESPN.com report cited above states that there’s nothing structurally wrong with Harangody’s knee, so that’s obviously great news.  The problem is that  the inflamed area of bone can take months to clear up, and the inflammation makes it very painful to move the knee or put weight on it.

The treatment consists of the usual stuff like ice, rest, and eventually some form of physical therapy to get the knee back to its full range of motion.  As I’ve said before, these team trainers and team doctors are an extremely crafty  bunch of folks with some really great toys and methods at their disposal, like cold massage and electro-current therapy (those sound fun), that can speed up the healing process.

There’s no doubt Luke Harangody wants to return and hopefully he’ll be pain-free as soon as possible, though he’d probably return even if the pain was at a “tolerable” level.  With a bone bruise, though, because of the intensity of the pain, that tends to be later rather than sooner.  Harangody, as you know, is on just about everybody’s first- or second-team all-America lists.  He’s the second leading scorer in the nation at 24.1 PPG, and pulls down 9.9 boards.  The Irish are 2-2 without him, but the two victories have come in their last two games, and at the expense of two ranked teams in Pittsburgh and Georgetown — exactly what the bubble-dwelling Irish need right now.

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Knee Injuries And The Home Viewer

Posted by jstevrtc on February 25th, 2010

Whether or not you’ve had a knee injury of any kind in the past, there aren’t many things that make people cringe more readily than watching a game on TV and seeing that slow-motion replay of a gruesome injury, especially when it involves an athlete’s knee(s).  The only thing stranger than seeing that joint go out of place and do that strange contortion for a split-second (I shudder every time) is watching it from multiple angles in super-slo-mo in high definition while an announcer narrates it — “Oh yeah, THERE it is!”

We saw this during Robbie Hummel’s injury last night.  When he drove into the lane and planted that right leg — you saw it.  Something happened, and it was unnatural.  Then the slow-motion replays gave you a better look at it.  It’s the usual story — a player plants their (usually in-turned) leg, but the top part of the knee keeps moving while the bottom stays still.  Pop.  The first thing people think when a player goes down and grabs a knee is “Uh oh, ACL.”  They’re often right, and unfortunately, though the MRI is pending, that looks like the case for Hummel.

You may ask how can they make that diagnosis without the MRI pictures.  Good question.  Doctors know that the physical exam is more important than any pictures you get.  The next time you’re watching television and a player (in any sport) goes down with a knee injury, watch what the doctor or trainer does.  There’s one specific thing that they almost always do first in evaluating the knee right there on the floor or field, or when they get the player back to the bench — there’s a test that checks the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) almost immediately.

It’s called the “Anterior Drawer” test.  Here’s what you’ll see.  The doctor/trainer will lay the player on their back and bend the knee they’re checking to about a 90 degree angle.  They’ll grab the leg at the calf with both hands, with their thumbs up to stabilize against the knee.  Then they’ll pull forward on the bottom part of the leg as if they were opening a drawer.  At this point, the player will usually yell loudly.  This alone doesn’t tell you anything, since if I’d just hurt my knee and some putz started messing with it, the foot on my good leg would immediately rise up and head for the doctor/trainer’s face or testicles.  What they’re feeling for is how much that bottom part of the leg slides forward at the knee when they do the drawer-opening motion.  If it’s a lot, your suspicion for an ACL tear goes way up.  If it’s not much or it feels normal, an ACL tear is still on the list, but not as likely.  But quite often, you can literally see the result there on television.  You can see the bottom part of the knee slide unnaturally forward (anteriorly) when the ACL is torn.  MRIs are best for looking at ligaments (you can’t see them on a normal x-ray), and that almost always gets done, but this is how doctors make a “preliminary” diagnosis even without the pictures.  There are other tests besides the Anterior Drawer to check the ACL, but that’s the one doctors and trainers most often use first, and the one you see them use most often right there on TV.

By the way, there’s also a Posterior Drawer test that checks the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) in the back of the knee, where you push backward instead of forward.  Same principle applies.  One last thing — don’t go doing these things on your friends.  The next time you see a knee injury on TV, though, watch the doctor/trainer do their exam.  Or more specifically, check out their Drawers.

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Texas Loses Its Starting Point Guard: Good Thing?

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2010

Let’s get this out of the way immediately: We’re not suggesting in our title that it’s a good thing for a player who regularly busts his hump and sacrifices blood, sweat and tears for his coach, teammates and fans to get injured.  But like Wally Pipp to Lou Gehrig or Rodrick Rhodes to Ron Mercer, sometimes good things at the program level can arise as a byproduct of unfortunate situations. 

Could the Loss of Balbay End Up Helping Texas?

Texas losing starting point guard Dogus Balbay to an ACL injury over the weekend versus Texas Tech may just be one of those situations.  The junior point guard from Turkey has started all but five games this year, contributing 4 PPG, 3 RPG and 4 APG in just over twenty minutes per contest.  He’s known as a defensive player, a perception that becomes even more clear once you see his shooting percentages of 50% from the foul line and 10% from three.  Yeah, you read that right.  The Longhorn guard who plays over half the minutes at his position needn’t be defended outside of the paint.  Still, Barnes loves his toughness and intensity, especially on the non-scoring end of the court, and he has continued to play Balbay heavy minutes.  In the five Big 12 games prior to Balbay’s injury, he had scored a total of four points in 93 minutes (with nine assists, six turnovers and 15 fouls). 

The two issues that Texas has struggled with this year are: 1) finding offensive consistency and flow; and related, 2) a clear definition of player roles.  It’s a tired cliche that coaches can occasionally have too much talent at their disposal, but this Texas team seems to fit the bill, and it’s most noticeable in a crowded backcourt.  Avery Bradley, Justin Mason, J’Covan Brown, Jai Lucas, and Balbay are all getting minutes there, with Mason, Brown and Lucas all spending time running the show.  From our viewings of UT games with Balbay as the point, the offense regularly bogs down in the halfcourt as defenses sag off of him to cover the other scoring threats on the floor.  When Brown or even Lucas is acting as the lead guard, there are clearly more boneheaded decisions running the offense, but there is also a greater opportunity for scoring.  And that’s where Texas struggles: putting the ball in the basket.  The Horns are elite defensively, holding teams to 39% from the field and 30% from three, but they’re only an average offensive team this year. 

Too Much Talent in Austin?

 It seems that Balbay’s injury, by virtue of the open position and 20+ minutes per game, will force Barnes to make a decision himself as to the tradeoff he’s willing to give up.  Brown is a gifted perimeter scorer prone to forced shots and sometimes-selfish play; his coach recently went on record saying that the freshman guard won’t play until he learns about preparation, consistency and accountability.  Lucas, on the other hand, is less gifted and plays more under control, but it’s clear that the junior transfer from Florida hasn’t had a chance to get comfortable in his new environs yet.  Mason is a senior whom Barnes trusts, but he’s another non-scoring threat just like Balbay. 

Whomever Barnes decides to hand the reins of his team to, that player will at least have the luxury of knowing that his minutes will likely increase and he’s not going to be yanked for one poor decision.  Perhaps that simple change in expectations will allow the backcourt to finally settle into their roles, even at this late point in the season.  Because if Texas can use this disappointment to finally figure out how to get consistent heady play and scoring from the perimeter, they suddenly become that team we all thought they could be.  And isn’t that what Barnes and Texas fans all ultimately want? 

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Tyler Zeller To Return Today Versus UNC

Posted by nvr1983 on February 20th, 2010

News out of Chapel Hill indicates that Tyler Zeller will be returning to action for UNC today at Boston College after sitting out a month with a stress fracture in his right foot. By now, everyone is familiar with the Tar Heels woes this season, which will most likely end in the NIT assuming they manage to win two of their last five games (yeah, it does sound crazy that they could actually finish below .500 and not qualify for the NIT). However, when Zeller injured his foot just prior to the Heels game against Clemson, they were 12-4 and #9 in the country despite a shocking (at the time) loss to Charleston. Following Zeller’s injury the Heels were blown out by the Tigers losing 8 of 10 games and reached a point where Roy Williams compared this season to the earthquake in Haiti.

Carolina Really Needs This Guy Right Now

With the loss of Ed Davis and Travis Wear for the rest of the season, the Heels could use Zeller on the inside even if his game and minutes will be a shell of what they were earlier in the season. While we don’t agree with Williams who said of his team, “There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m still confident [Ed. Note: We’re not exactly sure what that phrase actually means] we can go on a run and be in the [NCAA] tournament,” UNC fans could use a bit of good news and seeing Zeller have a solid return should give them hope for next season when they return most of their team except for Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson while they add a solid recruiting class that is headlined by Harrison Barnes.

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Travis Wear Sprains Ankle, Looks Forward To Some RICE

Posted by jstevrtc on February 10th, 2010

North Carolina’s Travis Wear was seemingly gaining confidence and comfort with his role on the current UNC squad with every game in which he appeared as the season progressed.  Through a combination of his own progression as a player and some team injuries, Wear had worked his way up to being Roy Williams‘ first or second option off the bench.  That’s going to have to wait, now, since Wear went up for a rebound during practice on Tuesday and came down on a teammate’s foot, spraining his left ankle badly enough to where he will not play against Duke on Wednesday.  Imaging showed no fracture, but he’s said to be out indefinitely.

The hits just keep coming for the Tar Heels. (AP/Julie Jacobson)

We’re guessing, though, that “indefinitely” in this case won’t be very long.  We’re assuming this is a simple inversion sprain (where the ankle “rolls” and the bottom of the foot goes inward) as opposed to the slightly more serious eversion sprain (where the bottom of the foot goes outward as the ankle gives way).  We know there’s no fracture.  That said, Wear is looking at several days of what doctors (and eighth-grade health class teachers) call RICE therapy.  That is: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.  Put less elegantly, Wear will stay off the ankle, ice it down, wrap it up in something like an ACE, and keep that baby on a couple of pillows as he watches practice or chills in his room.  Throw in some anti-inflammatories, a couple of tricks from the UNC medical staff  — make no mistake, these trainers and team docs are a crafty bunch — and some exercises to get back the flexibility and strength to the area, and we bet Wear will be good as new in no time.

You know what else helps injuries heal?  Winning.  We’re wagering that if UNC pulls off a stunner against Duke tonight and then grabs another win at home against North Carolina State this Saturday, that ankle will feel immediately better.  We’re not saying Wear is milking the injury at all.  We’re saying that if UNC reels off a couple of big wins and is suddenly back in the NCAA Tournament conversation, he’ll want to get back as quickly as he can to help.

Either way, this means Heels like Deon Thompson, William Graves, and Ed Davis will have to play a few more minutes and avoid foul trouble, or a couple of Travis Wear’s fellow freshmen — specifically John Henson and Travis’ brother David Wear — have just become more important to the Tar Heel cause.

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