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How have past National Title contenders fared after losing a star player to injury?

Mar 11, 2014, 5:21 PM EST

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In light of the back injury that will keep Joel Embiid out for the Big 12 tournament and could foreseeably saddle him to the bench for the entirety of the NCAA tournament, we decided to take a look at season-ending injuries to key players on past National Title contenders:

Kenyon Martin: Cincinnati was the No. 1 team in the country and Martin was the National Player of the Year, but he broke his leg in the first round of the Conference USA tournament. The Bearcats were given a two-seed and eventually lost in the second round to Tulsa.

Hank Gathers: We all know the story. Gathers was a star in LMU’s high-powered offense in 1990 that tragically passed away during the WCC tournament. The Lions lost in the Elite 8 to eventual national champion UNLV.

Scott May: May was averaging 18.5 points for Indiana an undefeated Indiana team in 1975 when he broke his arm in a game against Purdue in late-February. The Hoosiers lost in the Elite 8 to Kentucky. Without May’s injury, Bobby Knight may have ended up leading Indiana to back-to-back undefeated seasons.

Kendall Marshall: Everyone talks about how good Kentucky was in 2012, but no one ever seems to remember that North Carolina was considered a legitimate title contender as well … before Marshall, the point guard that was the engine to UNC’s offense, went down with a broken bone in his wrist. North Carolina lost in the Elite 8 to Kansas.

Robbie Hummel: Purdue looked like the best team in the Big Ten and a potential No. 1 seed when Hummel tore his ACL in February. The Boilermakers ended up being a four-seed, losing in the Sweet 16 to No. 1 seed Duke.

Arinze Onuaku: Syracuse lost Onuaku, their starting center, to a leg injury in the Big East tournament in 2010. They still earned a No. 1 seed, but they lost to Butler in the Sweet 16.

Loren Woods: Woods was averaging 15.6 points, 7.5 boards and 4.0 blocks for Arizona, but suffered a back injury that kept him out for the season in mid-February. The Wildcats lost to Wisconsin in the second round.

Derek Anderson: Anderson was averaging 17.7 points as a redshirt senior for Kentucky in 1997 when he tore his ACL in January. Kentucky still managed to make it all the way to the title game, losing to Arizona in overtime, but it’s hard not to wonder whether that injury cost Kentucky a three-peat.

  1. heydingis - Mar 11, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    Embiid is certainly a key player, and Kansas simply isn’t as good when he’s out of the lineup. Surely, though, a lot of the players listed above had much higher usage than Embiid. Between previous games without him and his knack for getting into foul trouble, I think Kansas will be much better equipped to weather the storm than the teams you’ve listed.

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