College hoops most impactful injuries

Updated: December 19, 2011, 2:28 PM ET
By Jay Bilas

Every practice I attend begins with a long period of complex stretching exercises led by an experienced, certified athletic trainer or strength coach. In fact, coaches sometimes joke, "All this stretching, all this time, and players seem to get injured more often." Of course, it is just an "old school" lament with no data behind it, but it sure seems like a lot of players have gone down with season-ending injuries, and the fates of teams have been negatively affected.

The biggest injury of the season has not threatened the season of the player or the team -- at least not yet. Ohio State's Jared Sullinger missed games against Texas-Pan American and Kansas with, reportedly, back spasms. Now he's reportedly dealing with a bone bruise on his left foot, though he's expected to be fine. But the back could be more worrisome.

Any injury to the back is a more complicated matter than an injury to a knee or shoulder. Back injuries are scary because they seem to affect everything and they have no real timetable. If you sprain an ankle or dislocate a shoulder, the doctors have a pretty good idea of how long you'll be out. If you injure your back, they're not as sure.

Injuries affect the title picture, as well. The injury that comes to my mind first is Kenyon Martin's broken leg in the 2000 Conference USA tournament. With Martin healthy, the Bearcats were the nation's No. 1 team and headed toward the Final Four. Without him, Cincinnati was out of the NCAA tournament early.

The outlook for Sullinger isn't bad, it appears, but if he misses more games, it will conjure up memories of Kyrie Irving, the freshman point guard from Duke who sat out all but 11 games last season with a bizarre toe injury. Before Irving's toe injury, there was incessant talk about whether anyone could beat Duke, and if the Blue Devils would be the first team since Indiana in 1976 to go through a season unbeaten.

Injuries happen, and that will not change. Sullinger does not appear to have a back injury as debilitating as Irving's toe injury, but others have lost the season to injuries, and the list seems longer than one would expect in December. In addition to Sullinger's injury, here's a look at the season's biggest injuries this far.

Marshawn Powell, Arkansas: Powell was lost for the season to a knee injury, severely limiting the Razorbacks' chances to compete successfully in the SEC. After a really good summer of workouts that got him in tremendous shape, Powell was the team's leading scorer and rebounder and was shooting 71 percent from the floor. He was limited last season by a foot injury and an attitude problem, but he had changed his outlook. This was a huge blow for coach Mike Anderson.