The start of the season finally brings us to where projections end and actual results begin. The beginning of this campaign, though, has been marred by an unusually large number of injuries and suspensions to key members of notable teams. Some teams will have to totally readjust while others just have to wait for their players to return. If form holds, the NCAA selection committee could have an interesting time on its hands in March, as a number of programs may have split profiles, with and without their players as detailed below (listed alphabetically, within their groups):
B.J. Bailey (and Gabe Knutson), Lehigh
Lehigh was co-darling of last season's NCAA tournament and a lot of people were excited to see their early-season performances at Baylor and at Pitt (in the NIT). Unfortunately, both Bailey and Knutson missed the game in Waco and Bailey's still not back, so C.J. McCollum and Co. saw a couple of opportunities for huge statement wins go tepidly by the board. An at-large is not reasonable coming from the Patriot League, but possible seeding definitely is in play at this time of the year.
Will Cherry, Montana
The Grizzlies should have their star guard back from a broken foot by conference play and the solid league favorite will need him if they want to make it back to the NCAAs. They gave it a good effort at Colorado State in their opener, but they're not the same team without him.
Amedeo Della Valle, Ohio State
A heralded recruit who is expected to provide some needed perimeter shooting, he missed the opener against Albany with a leg injury. Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. rained down threes on Albany is his stead, but having an extra shooter in the rotation will help relieve some of the scoring burden on Deshaun Thomas.
Kris Dunn and Vincent Council, Providence
The heralded freshman guard is out with a shoulder injury and has been joined on the pine by Council, leaving the Friars desperately low on major-conference talent for the time being. The only silver lining is both should be back by the start of Big East play.
Josh Gasser, Wisconsin
Gasser tore his ACL in the preseason and is gone for the year, which is a sizable blow to a Badgers team that needed him to fill the point guard void. The Badgers looked ragged offensively (and defensively, in the first half) at Florida Wednesday night in their first test against a major opponent.
Ryan Harrow, Kentucky
Maybe Archie Goodwin will be the eventual answer at the point. Or maybe former walk-on Jarrod Polson can provide more magic. But Kentucky probably needs a healthy Harrow, at least to provide some options over the course of the season and let Goodwin play his more comfortable role at the 2. Harrow is suffering from a flu-like illness and missed the game against Duke in Atlanta.
Tyler Lamb, UCLA
The Bruins' depth and lack of experience is showing without Lamb, who had preseason knee surgery and isn't back yet. Head coach Ben Howland admitted the Bruins missed Lamb after their major escape against UC Irvine Tuesday night.
Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee
The second-team all-SEC player last season has knee problems that likely will keep him out through at least the end of November, which means he'll miss the Old Spice Classic. Like last season, when they were without Jarnell Stokes for the first part of the season, the NCAA selection committee may have to evaluate two different Vols teams this season.
Kwamain Mitchell, St. Louis
Mitchell broke a bone in his left foot and is probably out until January. Things didn't go very well two seasons ago when Mitchell was suspended for the season, and they didn't go well at all Wednesday night when the Billikens were ripped at home by Santa Clara. If SLU is going to live up to preseason hype, the Billikens absolutely need a healthy Mitchell running the show in A-10 play.
Marshall Plumlee, Duke
I think this is the last Plumlee, and he's currently out with a stress fracture in his foot, leaving the Blue Devils a bit thin in their frontcourt behind older brother Mason. He should be back in December.
Brian Williams, Oklahoma State
The athletic Williams injured his wrist in a fall after a dunk in practice and is expected to miss the season. That's a blow to the Cowboys' hopes of a rebound this season behind Marcus Smart and an improved LeBryan Nash.
Chris Babb, Iowa State
The Cyclones crushed two SWAC teams in Babb's absence after he, yup, violated team rules. The premium defender will be expected to step up the scoring load this season for the revamped Clones.
Michael Dixon, Jr., Missouri
The senior guard was expected to be a very big piece of the revamped Tigers attack this season, but he's missed two exhibition games and two regular-season games for an unspecified violation of team rules. What's more, there doesn't seem to be a definite return date set. Despite the influx of talented transfers in Columbia, the Tigers need Dixon back.
Tony Freeland and Keala King, Long Beach State
The 49ers graduated a lot of talent from last season's team and need Freeland and King to join James Ennis on this overhauled roster. They're not going to get at-large consideration this season, so it's most important for the transfer duo to be ready to go for the start of league play, which will happen regardless of whether they get an NCAA hardship waiver approved. At worst, they'll be eligible for the Dec. 18 game with UCLA.
Anthony James, Northern Iowa
You guessed it: Three games. Violation of team rules. The lack of the 12.5 ppg scorer shouldn't hurt the Panthers, though, against low-level competition while he's out.
Geron Johnson, Memphis
The juco transfer guard was docked three games for impermissible benefits. If he can stay on the straight and narrow (he's, umm, had some off-court issues), he should be a welcome addition to the Tigers' backcourt this season, especially with the departure of Will Burton early to the NBA draft. He'll miss the VCU game that opens the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Carl Jones, Saint Joseph's
Jones was suspended for the Hawks' exhibition game and their first two regular-season games for what was termed a university violation. The final game of the point guard's suspension is the meeting with Notre Dame in Friday's Coaches vs. Cancer game in Brooklyn, which is a big opportunity for the Hawks to add some nonconference heft to a possible at-large resume.
Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin, Indiana
In one of the lamest NCAA decisions in recent memory, Perea and Jurkin were suspended for nine games each for receiving improper benefits because their guardian bought a couple of IU stickers before they were born. Seriously. It's like a college hoops spoof of Minority Report. The completely nonsensical ruling robs the Hoosiers of some frontcourt depth for the time being.
Isaiah Philmore, Xavier
A transfer for Towson who is being docked three games (so one more, against Robert Morris) because he failed to fill out some paperwork before he enrolled at Towson. Yay, bureaucracy! Philmore should help ease the loss of Kenny Frease in the middle for the X-men, who surprised Butler on Tuesday to make an early-season statement
Durand Scott, Miami
The Hurricanes point guard has missed Miami's first two games and will sit out one more thanks to some impermissible benefits. His absence has already had an impact, as the Canes were ambushed at Florida Gulf Coast by 12. Miami has some solid frontcourt talent but needs its ringleader to orchestrate the offense.
Winston Shepard, San Diego State
The Aztecs' heralded freshman was suspended for three games by the NCAA for an unspecified rule violation. The Aztecs likely will be fine without him for games against Missouri State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, although the game with the Bears is away.
B.J. Young, Arkansas
Probably no harm, no foul on this one as the preseason all-SEC guard missed the season opening five-point win over Sam Houston State thanks to a rules violation. If the Hogs have any hope of sneaking into the NCAA tournament, they need a fully functioning Young in the lineup.
Jordan Burgess and Mo Alie-Cox, VCU
VCU lost standout Bradford Burgess after last season, but was poised to add his younger brother to the mix until top-100 recruit Jordan (and Mo) were declared partial qualifiers and ruled ineligible for this season. With four starters back from last season, this is not a crushing blow to the Rams, but it does cut significantly into their expected depth, and with the style they run, that's never a good thing.
JerShon Cobb, Northwestern
Not a high-profile name, but a decent returning scorer for a backcourt-heavy team that still is looking for its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament. Cobb was suspended for the season for a violation of team rules.
Myck Kabongo, Texas
Kabongo is also caught in the netherworld of an NCAA investigation without a finish line. He missed the Horns' opener, which was an incredibly sloppy 55-53 decision over a Fresno State team that staggered past UC Riverside, 39-30, Wednesday night. The Horns clearly must get Kabongo back on the floor if they have any expectation of living up to preseason billing. With him, they're a clear NCAA tournament team.
Ricky Ledo, Providence
Ledo combined with Kris Dunn to give the Friars a recruiting class that provided the program with an enormous shot in the arm. Now Dunn is injured and Ledo was ruled ineligible to play games this season. With leading returning scorer Vincent Council now also out for at least a month with a hamstring injury, the nonconference season quickly has become an expectations washout for the Friars. We'll see if they can make any headway in Big East play if the two injured players can get back on the floor.
Todd Mayo, Marquette
Mayo was ruled academically ineligible and will miss at least the fall semester, with no guarantee that he will return to the Golden Eagles at any time this season. This was a tough blow for Marquette, which expected Mayo to pick up some of the minutes left from departed star guard Darius Johnson-Odom.
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
This is obviously the big one in terms of hype and possible impact on the national scene. Muhammad's story keeps getting more sordid, as the Los Angeles Times late Wednesday night reported that the NCAA may have pre-judged Muhammad's eligibility. That's a really bad look for the NCAA, if true, regardless of the merit to their eligibility claims about Muhammad. As far as the on-court implications, the Bruins really, really need Muhammad's athleticism and scoring. They are a slow, limited team at present, one that needed two missed free throws in the final seconds of regulation to escape UC Irvine in overtime. If he's ruled ineligible for the season, you can forget about any aspirations the Bruins had of a deep March run. It's not happening.
Dai-Jon Parker, Vanderbilt
When you're rebuilding after the departure of numerous stars, you can't afford to lose a heralded young returning player, but that's what happened to the Dores when they suspended Parker indefinitely for a non-academic team rules violation. When (if?) Parker gets back on the court, he should get heavy minutes, although the Dores got some nice contributions from others in his stead in their opener.