It's midseason, which means a lot of key players have been busy shuffling in and out of lineups and throwing off -- or enhancing -- their team's NCAA tournament profiles because of transfers, injuries and suspensions. Below is a compendium of notable players who have had a change of plans or who are starting their seasons belatedly:
The senior guard, who averaged 13.5 points a game and was considered one of the best sixth men in the country last year, left school in the fall amid allegations of sexual assault. (No charges have been filed.) The Tigers have missed his high-octane defense and ability to penetrate and score from the perimeter but are hoping Jabari Brown (see below) fills the void.
The junior guard, a dynamic athlete who contributed 9.1 points a game last year, was kicked off the team in September because of multiple rules violations, transferred out and signed with Wright State. The Bulldogs have adjusted well: they are 15-2 (including wins over Indiana, Marquette and North Carolina) and are the team to beat in their new league, the A-10.
Jones, whose 13 points and 3.5 assists a game made him one of the few bright spots for the Trojans last year, transferred after learning he'd miss this season because of academic reasons. In October he signed with Iowa State, where he will replace another transfer, former Michigan State player Korie Lucious, at point guard next year. Meanwhile, USC, currently 6-10, is floundering again.
Kearney, a 6-foot-5 sophomore defensive specialist who was giving the Spartans 16.9 minutes and 2.3 points a game, surprised coach Tom Izzo by announcing his intention to transfer after the Christmas break to look for an expanded role elsewhere. His departure should mean expanded roles for Russell Byrd and Travis Trice.
Moore, who averaged 10.7 points and 4.3 assists in three years in Pullman, was kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons before the chseason and has since transferred to Western Washington. Already hurting from prize recruit Que Johnson's failure to qualify academically, the Cougars were expected to struggle and they have. But they've had their moments, too, including a near-upset of No. 10 Gonzaga on Dec. 5.
Highly regarded out of high school (he also had offers from Arizona, Connecticut and Indiana) the athletic wing foresaw little action this year backing up Wayne Blackshear and Luke Hancock the year. He should see more opportunity at his new school, Gonzaga.
While Lamb, a 6-5 junior swingman who averaged 5.8 points a game in two years in Westwood, is still considering his options, the 6-10, 300 pound Smith has landed at Georgetown, where his quick feet, soft hands and innumerable skills around the basket will help the Hoyas -- if he gets into condition, something he never did in Westwood. The departure of these two vets, along with the lifting of the suspension on star freshman Shabazz Muhammad (see below) seems to have been a net positive for the Bruins, who are finally playing well after a disastrous start to the season. \n
The highest rated recruit in Panthers history, Birch lasted just 10 games before he fled Pittsburgh for the desert. A long and athletic big man who runs the floor well, Birch should provide the Rebels with a reliable rebounder and shotblocker. In six games, Birch has added 9.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and nearly two blocks a game.
The 6-5 wing, a former five-star recruit from Oakland, played just two games at Oregon (averaging six points and 25 minutes) before deciding to transfer last fall. As hoped, he is providing the Tigers with an outside threat to take pressure off of Phil Pressey. In five games, he has averaged 13.8 points and hit 14 threes (.424), third most on the team.
King, who was dismissed from ASU last January for "unacceptable conduct" while he was averaging 13.7 points, 3.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds, will give the inexperienced 49ers">49ers a much-needed boost in the backcourt while Freeland, a 6-7 forward who scored 15 points in his debut against Pacific, will add scoring and aggressiveness in the frontcourt.
So much for rust: After sitting out a year, Garland, the third all-time leading scoring in Philadelphia public school history, is already giving the Explorers a huge scoring punch. In seven games, the 6-1 guard is averaging 13.8 points
Back From Injury
The Cardinals lost just once, to Duke, while the breakout star of Louisville's run to the Final Four last year sat out seven games with a left wrist injury. But having the Senegalese swatter back in the paint is already paying huge dividends: in his third game back, on Wednesday, Dieng led the team with 16 points, 14 rebounds (both season highs) and three blocks in a 73-58 win at Seton Hall.
Providence struggled without Dunn, a heralded freshman point guard who missed the Friars' first nine games with a shoulder injury, and Council, a senior guard who missed 10 with a hamstring injury. But their addition to the lineup haven't made much difference: The Friars are 0-3 in the Big East and have lost five in a row.
After missing four games because of an undefined illness, Harrow has become the point guard the Wildcats need: Over the last four games, the 6-2 sophomore transfer from North Carolina State has arguably been the Cats' best player, averaging 17.7 points (while shooting 51 percent from the field and 53 percent from the three), 4.75 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals a game.
The Billikens' star point guard returned from an 11-game absence for a broken foot just in time to help his team beat New Mexico and two other final non-conference foes before the grueling Atlantic-10 schedule began. A 12.4 points-a-game scorer last year, Mitchell has averaged nearly four assists and eight points in four games since his return.
Back From Injury, Sort Of ...
After sitting out the first half of the season with a stress fracture, the third towering Plumlee brother, a redshirt freshman, finally made his much anticipated debut for Duke -- and sprained his ankle after getting just one block and one rebound in four games. But at 14-0 the Blue Devils can afford to allow him a slow start.
The 6-8 junior All-America candidate was averaging 12.3 points and 9.2 rebounds a game before he dislocated his right elbow in a game against Cal on Dec. 9. It may be awhile before he's back to speed: after a three-point, foul-plagued 12 minute performance against North Carolina on Dec. 29, he sat out two more games before making another appearance. On Wednesday he had three points and two rebounds in a 65-60 loss at New Mexico.
The Cardinals' third-leading scorer (11.4 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (7.1 rpg) is expected to miss as many as four games after spraining his left ankle in practice on Jan. 7. But Card fans should fear not: His replacement, freshman forward Montrezl Harrell, is a beast in his own right: against Seton Hall on Wednesday he had 14 points, three rebounds and two steals.
The Tigers have won all three of the games that the junior center, the team's second-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder , sat out with a groin injury, but the depth he brings to the frontcourt will be critical as Conference USA play gets going.
Bowers, a 6-8 forward who has been the Tigers' leading scorer (16.8 ppg), best three-point shooter (.520) and most consistent player after sitting out last season with a torn left ACL, is likely to miss two games (Ole Miss and Georgia) after spraining his right MCL in the Tigers' 84-68 SEC debut win over Alabama on Tuesday. His absence will add urgency to the return of reserve big man Tony Criswell (6.0 points, 5.0 rebounds) who has missed three games with a broken finger.
The 6-10 senior center from Australia was playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 11.3 points and 8.5 rebounds, when he tore an ACL in a game against Purdue on Nov. 16. He's out for the season, and the Beavers are making do with a thinner frontcourt.
A torn labrum in his right shoulder has meant an early end to the season for Crawford, an all-Big Ten third team selection who was averaging 13.5 points through 10 games. Hearn, the team's leading scorer (14.5 ppg) before he suffered a twisted ankle against Stanford on Dec. 21, missed two games before returning Jan. 6. His return is welcome -- in the team's only Big Ten win so far, Hearn scored 14 points and four rebounds at Penn State -- but may not be enough to turn the season around. In their first two Big 10 games, the Wildcats have been crushed by an average of 23 points.
Expected to challenge Memphis for supremacy in Conference USA, Marshall has instead struggled to stay above .500. Two big problems: prize freshman point guard Kareem Canty was declared academically ineligible, and Kane, a junior guard the league Freshman of the Year two years ago, broke his right hand Dec. 8. Kane, whose 8.5 assists per game before the injury was third-best in the country, returned to action on Jan. 5, and in his second game back helped stop a three-game skid with 16 points and seven assists in a 79-61 win over Tulsa.
The 6-11 forward was having a brilliant senior season (13.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks) before he injured his right foot in a 68-40 win over Clemson on Tuesday. (It's the same foot Kelly sprained last March, which kept him out of the ACC and NCAA tournaments.) With no estimate for Kelly's return, the Blue Devils will have to find a replacement among a number of players who have seen little playing time, including Marshall Plumlee (see above.)
One of the best three-point shooters in the Mountain West, Martinez was averaging 14.5 points and shooting 42 percent from the arc when he broke his right ring finger in an unspecified off-campus incident (an early morning bar fight, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.) The Cowboys already miss him: On Wednesday, they lost for the first time all season, falling 63-61 to Boise State on a buzzer-beater.
Maymon, who has struggled with setbacks to his recovery from meniscus surgery on his left knee last March, has decided to redshirt this season and come back for a fifth year in 2013-14. Without their All-SEC second-team forward, who averaged 12.7 points and 8 rebounds a game last year as a junior, the Vols have struggled on offense and gone 8-5, including a 92-74 blowout loss to Ole Miss in their SEC opener.
A broken left foot, sustained early in the Mountain Hawks' game at VCU on Jan. 5, is the toughest of breaks for the senior guard and prospective first-round draft pick whose 25.7 points a game was best in the nation. And it's harsh news for Lehigh, which now has a much tougher task challenging Bucknell for the Patriot League title.
Of all the teams that have been hit by injuries to three or more players -- and there are a lot of them -- no team has absorbed the blows better than Wichita State. Despite missing starting sophomore guard Ron Baker (stress fracture in left foot) leading scorer and rebounder Carl Hall (broken right thumb) and sophomore guard Evan Wessel (broken pinkie) for several games, the Shockers (15-1; 4-0) keep rolling. This week they re-entered the AP poll at No. 23.
Marks, the Broncos' leading scorer (16.3 points a game) and three other members of the Boise State rotation were suspended indefinitely for undisclosed reasons before the team traveled to Wyoming on Wednesday. Their teammates didn't seem to miss them: Thanks to a buzzer beater by Jeff Elloriaga, the Broncos beat the previously undefeated Cowboys 63-61.
Earlier this week Brown, the Redbirds' second-leading scorer (15.3 ppg), was suspended indefinitely by coach Dan Muller for "conduct detrimental to the team." Brown's absence will further hurt a team whose promising season -- the Redbirds had beaten UAB and Dayton and nearly upset Northwestern and Louisville -- has slid off the rails with a 0-4 start in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Kabongo's original year-long suspension, imposed by the NCAA for accepting impermissible benefits and then misleading school officials about it, was reduced to 23 games on appeal. That means the Longhorns, who have losses to DII Chaminade and lowly USC on their resume, only have to wait until the Feb. 13 game against Iowa State for much needed-help from the sophomore point guard, who led the team in steals, assists and defense as a freshman.
With or without Cobb, a 6-5 guard (7.4 ppg in 2011-12) who was suspended for the season for a violation of team rules, this was probably not going to be the year the Wildcats made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time. The loss of their second best scorer to season-ending injury (see above), not to mention a Big Ten that is even more competitive than usual, could make this a very long season for the Wildcats, who have lost six of their last 10 games.
Egolf, the Braves' 6-9 senior center who was averaging 8.6 points and 5.8 rebounds a game, was suspended indefinitely after being arrested on Dec. 31 for possession of a controlled substance, reportedly Vicodin pain pills. The Braves have gone 1-2 in the games Egolf has sat out so far.
Sanchez, a 24-year-old juco transfer with shotblocking and rebounding chops the 9-6 Johnnies could really use, is stuck in a an NCAA quagmire as the organization tries to determine if he graduated high school in the Dominican Republic at an advanced age because of "financial hardship beyond and individual's control" or for some reason not approved by the NCAA.
Back From Suspension
OJ's little brother was expected to have an expanded role in the Golden Eagles' backcourt this season after the departure of Darius Johnson-Odom -- until he was suspended for the fall semester because of academic ineligibility. In the four games since he was reinstated, Mayo has had a modest impact, averaging 5.8 points and 2.3 rebounds a game.
A number of players got dinged with three-game suspensions to start the season, but no such player has changed the course of his team's season by finally getting on the court the way Muhammad has. (And no player has gotten onto the court quite the way Muhammad did. If you don't know the story, Google Muhammad+NCAA+fired lead investigator.) After an ugly November that saw UCLA lose to Cal Poly and need overtime to beat UC Irvine, the Bruins are finally clicking, thanks largely to the coveted freshman's aggressive offensive game. Over the Bruins' current eight-game win streak Muhammad has averaged 22 points a game.