Injury concerns linger as NCAA Tournament tip-off approaches

By Thomson Reuters Mar 18, 2024 | 11:55 AM

Hurt or injured? It’s a fine line that could prove the difference between advancing and elimination for multiple NCAA Tournament teams this week.

Status reports for star players are pausing some scouting reports for the opening rounds of the tournament.

Midwest No. 1 seed Purdue doesn’t play until Friday but the Boilermakers are crossing their fingers a full-strength Braden Smith can be in the lineup in Indianapolis. Smith, a first-team all-conference guard, played in the Big Ten conference tournament semifinal loss to Wisconsin on Saturday with a calf injury he suffered the day before.

“If something’s not falling off me or I’m not throwing up or something all the way, I feel like I should be out there playing,” Smith said postgame.

Purdue isn’t in position to take chances; the Boilermakers lost in the first round as a No. 1 seed last March.

South Region No. 2 seed Marquette played the Big East tournament without All-American point guard Tyler Kolek. Kolek is dealing with an oblique injury but said during the Golden Eagles’ live shot during the NCAA selection show on Sunday, “I’m back.”

“We’re planning on him playing on Friday,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “He does have to go through a progression starting in practice on Tuesday. As long as everything goes well, he will be in uniform on Friday.”

Kansas went one-and-done at the Big 12 tournament and is the Midwest’s No. 4 seed headed to Salt Lake City — with expected reinforcements.

All-Big 12 First Team selections Hunter Dickinson (dislocated shoulder) and Kevin McCullar Jr. (bruised knee) left the 30-point loss to Houston (76-46) on March 9 and haven’t been fully healthy since. But Self said they’ve made improvement and expect to be back in the lineup against Samford.

“I’ve never had two All-Americans both be out at the same time, but I know that we should be much better this week than what we have been,” Self said.

Dickinson averaged 18.0 points and 10.8 rebounds in his first season with the Jayhawks. McCullar is averaging 18.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists.

Florida crashed the SEC championship game on Sunday with an unexpected run through the conference tournament but the No. 7 seed in the South goes to Brooklyn for a first-round game missing a key piece of the rotation.

Center Micah Handlogten is done for the year after breaking his leg in Sunday’s loss to Auburn.

–Field Level Media