The college basketball offseason is a long one, but when early November arrives, everyone is already in midseason mode. Attrition, players not enrolling, and other unexpected roster shuffles, while important, are not coaches’ primary concerns at this time. But it is easy to forget the one related thing that can still throw a wrench into the upcoming season: preseason practice injuries. As an example, two Big Ten teams were hit with the bug just this week. Northwestern announced Wednesday that sophomore forward Vic Law will miss the entire season with a torn labrum in his shoulder, while Maryland announced that sophomore guard Dion Wiley will miss around four months with a torn meniscus. Both are former four-star recruits looking for breakout seasons, and their absences will hurt. Here’s what it means for the Wildcats and Terrapins.
Wiley, the 44th-ranked player in the class of 2014 (according to Scout.com), averaged 4.1 points and 1.5 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per game as a freshman, appearing in all of Maryland’s 35 games. Head coach Mark Turgeon acknowledged in the preseason that Wiley was slotted to start at two-guard this year. While he individually was poised for a boost in production, Maryland’s deep perimeter rotation makes his loss relatively survivable. A significant injury is unfortunate, but the silver lining for Turgeon is that it makes his minutes allocations a little easier to sort out. A result is that sophomore Jared Nickens and Duke graduate transfer Rasheed Sulaimon’s roles have become a little clearer. Nickens, another former top-100 recruit, is likely to start in Wiley’s place with Sulaimon spelling him off the bench. The former’s 113.4 offensive rating (per KenPom) was the second-highest offensive rating on the team last season behind Melo Trimble. He started nine games and averaged 6.7 points per contest with 57 made three-pointers. His offensive game is a little one-dimensional, as three-pointers accounted for 78 percent of his shot attempts last year, but there’s always room for a shooter. Sulaimon brings a little more passing and driving ability to the lineup, but his best attribute is the three-pointer as well.