Top 10 Biggest Pre-NCAA Tournament Player Losses
As the Brandon Davies situation at BYU has shown us, an elite basketball team is sometimes one injury or suspension away from having its season unravel. We look at the ten biggest pre-tournament player losses since 1985 in the weeks leading up to the Big Dance based on the player’s importance to its team.
10. Jerome Dyson (2009, Connecticut)
Dyson was the team’s second-leading scorer (13.2 PPG) and the most dangerous outside threat when he tore his lateral meniscus late in the season against Syracuse. In the team’s eight remaining games, which included the Big East Tournament, the Huskies went 5-3, not good for a team that had lost just one in the first 24 games. Connecticut wound up reaching the Final Four despite not having Dyson but missing their best three-point shooter might’ve cost the Huskies a title shot. In their Final Four loss to the Spartans, the Huskies took fewer three-point shots (6) than Michigan State made (9).
9. Brian Butch (2007, Wisconsin)
If you’re squeamish ,we suggest you don’t watch the video below. Badger fans all over the country got the same sick feeling Butch likely got when this happened to his elbow against Ohio State. Wisconsin was No. 1 that night and playing for a Big Ten title. Without their third-leading scorer and their leading rebounder, the Badgers pretty much lost what made them such a force: physicality in the paint. Wisconsin lost that game, the Big Ten title and any hope at making a deep run in the NCAA tournament. The Badgers were bounced in the second round by No. 7 seed UNLV.
8. Loren Woods (2000, Arizona)
Woods was a big presence in the paint and we don’t just mean that figuratively (Woods was 7-foot-1). He put up 15.6 points and grabbed 7.5 rebounds a night for the Wildcats. But with just five games remaining in the season, Woods injured his back, leaving a big gaping hole in the middle of the paint. The Wildcats still got a No. 1 seed and many believed Arizona would be fine. Wisconsin was having none of that and brutalized a Wood-less Wildcat team, bouncing the Cats in the second round.
7. Arinze Onuaku (2010, Syracuse)
With Onuaku in the post averaging 10.7 points and 5.2 rebounds a night, the Orange were consistently one of the best two or three teams in the country. But when he went down during a Big East Tournament game with what turned out to be a strained right quad, it became painfully (no pun intended) clear that the Orange were in deep trouble. Wrote Yahoo’s Jason King: “The key to Syracuse’s national championship hopes left Madison Square Garden Thursday on crutches.” Talk about a depressing image. Without that low post presence opposing teams were forced to account for, the Orange couldn’t get past Gordon Hayward and Butler in the Sweet 16.
6. Robbie Hummel (2010, Purdue)
There may not have been a more heart-breaking story heading into the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Boilermakers finally had a Final Four-worthy team and the Final Four was in nearby Indianapolis. It was supposed to be perfect. Then Robbie Hummel’s knee blew up in a late game against Minnesota and Purdue’s title hopes took a nose dive. The Boilermakers were a potential No. 1 seed but feel all the way down to No. 4 after losing 16 points and seven boards a night in Hummel. To the team’s credit, it clawed it’s way into the Sweet 16 before losing to Duke.