That’s not ‘what the doctor ordered’

first_imgAs the famous saying goes, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. It is lucky for a team to go through an entire year relatively healthy, and it is unlucky to have a premier player fall to injury during the season.No matter how you look at it, injuries are part of the game and impact it in a massive way.This year, especially in the Big Ten, it seems as though injuries to marquee players are the norm.The influx of high-profile injuries this year is a mystery, but it has affected nearly every contender in the conference.Start with an injury nearly everyone in Madison has heard about.Junior forward Jon Leuer’s wrist has seemingly become the subject of more rumors and tabloids in the area than even Tiger Woods’ infidelity. Now that’s a tough feat to accomplish.Immediately following surgery from a fractured wrist, his condition was given the infamous “out indefinitely” label.Some Badger fans gloomily declared his, and by default the team’s, season over. Others stuck to reports that Leuer’s wrist would heal in a timely manner and the team would be able to welcome him back before the end of the regular season, with plenty of time to regain some the polish he lost in time for the tournament.Roughly four weeks later, rumors are abound he is on his way back.He is currently wearing a removable brace and was even seen taking some shots in practice Monday and during warm ups yesterday.While the Badgers have gone a respectable 5-3 without him, there is no question the team misses the 6-foot-10 forward’s versatility, aggressive rebounding and silky outside shooting.Leuer and the Badgers are not the only team this year shuffling around to replace a void in their lineup.Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State have all had vital players in their rotation miss time for injury or off-the-court troubles.The highest profile injury nationally of this group involves National Player of the Year candidate Evan Turner and the Buckeyes.A tough contender team with him in the lineup, the Buckeyes struggled mightily after Turner went down with a fractured back on Dec. 6.Ohio State did not dissolve into nothing without him, but would probably not be tied for third place in the Big Ten had he not come back.His presence makes the team a legitimate contender for not only the regular season Big Ten title, but also sets up the Buckeyes to make a strong run in March.Another huge name to have fallen victim to injuries is reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas.Lucas fell awkwardly on Keaton Nankivil’s ankle last week at the Kohl Center and subsequently missed one game.The Spartans lost that game at Illinois and were unable to regain their winning mojo last night at home against Purdue, even with Lucas back in the lineup.Another player in Tuesday night’s game trying to make a comeback was starting Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson.His return wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Lucas’ (does anyone actually remember he came back in the Badgers’ visit to West Lafayette?), and Purdue was equally as effective in his absence, but his calming influence on the team and passing ability is nothing to sleep on.Unable to regain his form, he has struggled in his four games back, only scoring four points and accumulating just as many turnovers as assists.Fortunately for the Badgers, Buckeyes, Spartans and Boilermakers, their respective stars are or will be back on the court for the tournament.Northwestern and Minnesota don’t enjoy this same payoff.Can the Northwestern basketball program ever have any luck? The Wildcats, trying to make their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, have been without star forward Kevin Coble for the entire year.With only a few weeks remaining in the season, Northwestern has performed admirably without Coble as players like John Shurna and freshman Drew Crawford have stepped up to keep the team relevant within the Big Ten.There is no such feel-good story for Minnesota and all the problems currently surrounding their program.They have had to deal with losing high-profile players to off-the-court issues.Al Nolen fell behind on his studies, resulting in him being ruled academically ineligible, and the Royce White situation seemed doomed from the beginning, with White having a history of behavioral issues before he left the University of Minnesota last week.Head coach Tubby Smith built the team into a contender by recruiting well and establishing a strong home court advantage, but these recent off-the-court troubles completely overshadow any positive strides their program has made.Nolen not hitting the books hard enough and White, a prize recruit, leaving the team after being arrested for stealing laptops out of university dorms completely embarrasses the University of Minnesota and the Big Ten conference as a whole.Adjusting team lineups seems easy enough if the Badgers are the only basketball team you follow, but it’s amazing that nearly every team contending for the Big Ten title has had to make such drastic modifications during the season.It speaks to the level of coaching currently present in the conference, as arguably both Bruce Weber and Bo Ryan have a reasonable chance at National Coach of the Year honors.As another exciting conference season comes to a close, we will see which coach has adapted his team the best.However, once every team is at full strength in March we will finally see which team really is the best in the Big Ten.last_img

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