The injury bug has hit.
1. Blake Griffin, Oklahoma, So. (Last week: No. 1)
Last game: Two points, three rebounds, one steal in 11 minutes in a 73-68 loss to Texas on Feb. 21.
Season averages: 22 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.3 bpg, 63.2 fg%
Wooden Worth: You know it, I know it, Jeff Capel knows it. No matter how many games Blake Griffin misses due to the concussion he sustained against Texas, he's still going to win Player of the Year honors. Now, that's probably small solace for an Oklahoma team that's dropped two straight without its big man and could be in danger of losing a No. 1 seed. But the Sooners, to their credit, seem to be taking Griffin's injury in stride.
In fact, they seem to be grateful for it, though in the least perverse way possible. After the most recent loss to Kansas, Taylor Griffin, Blake's older brother and an Oklahoma forward, said the Sooners were "trying to look at this game as an opportunity to go out and show that [they have] guys that can play well besides him."
And that opportunity isn't the only good thing to come from Griffin's injury. Imagine living in a world where we hadn't seen the normally demure Griffin sporting an artistically-embroidered sport coat and two sizable diamond studs. Perish the thought. Capel hopes to have Griffin in the lineup Saturday against Texas Tech, but Griffin's father says Blake's nowhere near game-ready.
2. Stephen Curry, Davidson, Jr. (Last week: No. 2)
Last game: 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, one steal in 26 minutes in a 70-49 win over UNC Greensboro on Feb. 25.
Season averages: 28.3 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.4 rpg, 2.6 spg, 38.1 3p%
Wooden Worth: Curry's on the mend, and now we can once again associate Davidson's sharpshooter with his signature mouth guard instead of crutches. Happy days. Though Curry only played 26 minutes against UNC Greensboro, he looked much sharper in his second game back from injury than he did in his first. Against Butler, Curry notched 20 points, but on 6-for-23 shooting, including a paltry 2-for-13 from three-point range. Curry found his stroke against UNCG, but more importantly, he took smart shots. Shot selection has always been the most alarming aspect of Curry's game, but in this contest, smart shots put Curry in the position to make an impact in other ways (his 10 rebounds were a season high). Plus, when Curry's not jacking up 13 tres, viewers get the chance to appreciate what a gifted passer and capable ball-thief he can be.
3. James Harden, Arizona State, So. (Last week: No. 3)
Last game: 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block, three-for-six from beyond the arc in a 70-68 win over Arizona on Feb. 22.
Season averages: 21.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 35.2 min
Wooden Worth: Arizona State fans have gotten a bit of a bad rap this season as overzealous court-rushers. Why, the online critics wonder, can't the Sun Devils and their fans act like they've been here before? That's simple. They haven't. The Sun Devils have never won a Pac-10 men's basketball title, and now, thanks largely to Harden, they're a half-game out of first with four games remaining in the regular season. Arizona had won seven straight heading into Sunday's matchup with Arizona State, but James Harden and Co. were working on a little streak of their own. The Sun Devils kept it interesting, blowing a 17-point second-half lead before nailing it down by two to win their fifth in a row. They haven't lost since falling to Washington at home on Jan. 31 and have a chance to redeem themselves and jump to the head of the conference race by beating the Huskies on Feb. 26. Incidentally, that Jan. 31 loss was the last time Harden logged fewer than 38 minutes in a game (he notched 36). Here's guessing he plays the full 40 on Friday.
4. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame, Jr. (Last week: No. 5)
Last game: 20 points, 15 rebounds, two assists, one steal, six-for-eight from the line in a 70-65 win over Rutgers on Feb. 25.
Season averages: 24 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1 bpg, 79.1 ft%
Wooden Worth: To borrow from the film of the hour, Slumdog Millionaire, "it is written," and so it will come to pass. More than once, Wooden Watch has paid homage to Harangody's free throw shooting prowess, the thing that most separates him from many of the nation's elite big men. With their tournament hopes dangling by a tiny, ever-fraying thread, the Irish desperately needed to take care of business this past week against Providence and Rutgers, and they did -- but not before Harangody had to drain two from the line in the waning minutes to put away the Scarlet Knights.
5. DeJuan Blair, Pitt, So. (Last week: No. 4)
Last game: 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block, five fouls in a 81-73 loss to Providence on Feb. 24.
Season averages: 15.9 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 1.6 spg, .9 bpg, 59.7 fg%
Wooden Worth: Blair followed his gem of a game against UConn with another monster performance against DePaul, in which he gathered 13 rebounds in the first 13 minutes and 16 in the first half. Perhaps coach Jamie Dixon took pity on DePaul, then poised to lose a school-record 14th straight game, because he sat Blair for much of the second half. Should have given him his minutes while he had the chance. Blair fouled out three days later against a Providence team hungry for a sniff at the NCAA tournament, and Pitt, that day anointed the nation's top team (again), fell.
And now, the trusty Wooden Watch refrain: The only thing that can stop Blair is foul trouble, and the only thing that can stop Pitt is playing without Blair. While a 17-point, eight-rebound wouldn't be considered an off-night for most, it is for Blair, who's a less effective rebounder when he has to curb his aggressive pursuit. Blair has fouled out in three of Pitt's four loses, and while that doesn't necessarily prove causation, it certainly shows correlation. We've said it before. Hopefully for Pitt's sake, we won't have to say it again.
6. Jerel McNeal, Marquette, Sr. (Last week: 9)
Last game: 26 points, five assists, four rebounds, two steals, one block in 40 minutes in a 93-82 loss to UConn on Feb. 25.
Season averages: 20.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.2 spg
Wooden Worth: And another one bites the dust. Marquette lost senior point guard Dominic James for the remainder of the season after he broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot during the 93-82 loss to the Huskies. Fellow guard McNeal has always been crucial to Marquette's success, but he's also always been a part of something bigger, namely the James-Matthews-McNeal senior guard trio. Now, with a potentially lethal trifecta of games against Louisville, Pitt and Syracuse remaining and James' college career over, McNeal's going to be more important than ever before. Not that he can do much more than he's already doing. McNeal's only logged fewer than 35 minutes once in Big East play, he's scoring, he's finding the open man and he's using his defensive prowess to limit scoring options and cause turnovers. Now, it's time for him to lead.
7. Tyler Hansbrough, UNC, Sr. (Last week: No. 6)
Last game: 11 points, 11 rebounds, four turnovers in an 88-85 loss to Maryland on Feb. 21.
Season averages: 21 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 84.3 ft%
Wooden Worth: Another week, another "Hansbrough's not *insert activity here* as much this season as last" column. First rebounds, now foul shots.
After UNC's shocking weekend loss to Maryland, The Charlotte Observer pointed out Hansbrough's not getting to the line as much this season as last. Hansbrough averaged 13.7 free throw attempts per game last season, but Saturday's loss marked the fifth straight game he attempted single-digit free throws. Luke Winn's got an explanation. Now, we just have to figure out why he's only averaging seven boards.
8. Hasheem Thabeet, UConn, Jr. (Last week: No. 7)
Last game: 15 rebounds, 14 points, five blocks, one assist, six-for-seven from the line in a 93-82 win over Marquette on Feb. 25.
Season averages: 13.5 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 4.4 bpg, 65.2 fg%
Wooden Worth: Now that he's gotten DeJuan Blair out of his system, Thabeet's back to his old rebound-hungry, block-happy self. Indeed, the ugly mark on the win-loss record seems to be the lone remnant from his forgettable meeting with Pitt's offensive rebound extraordinaire. It wasn't until the second half against Marquette that UConn starting capitalizing on Thabeet's height advantage on the offensive end, but Thabeet didn't need anyone to help him get involved on defense. On that end, it was the same old script: alter shot, block shot, grab rebound, repeat.
9. Terrence Williams, Louisville, Sr. (Last week: Not ranked)
Last game: 12 rebounds, 10 points, seven assists, two steals, one block in a 76-58 win over Georgetown on Feb. 23.
Season averages: 12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.8 apg, 2.1 spg
Wooden worth: Perhaps more teams should wear logo-less practice jerseys. Ever since Rick Pitino replaced his squad's official practice gear with generic white shirts and red short in the wake of a brutal beating against Notre Dame, Louisville's been unstoppable. As usual, the Cardinals' balanced attack prevents any one player from putting up gaudy stats, but Williams' consistent play and leadership have helped propel the team's resurgence. His gritty rebounding and surprising assists totals haven't hurt, either.
10. Jeff Teague, Wake Forest, So. (Last week: No. 10)
Last game: 28 points, two rebounds, one assist in a 101-91 loss to Duke on Feb. 22.
Season averages: 20.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.5 rpg, 2.1 spg, 51.1 fg%
Wooden Worth: Teague's offensive ability was on full display against Duke, but unfortunately for Wake, the offensive was there for everyone. Wake's typically stingy defense allowed Duke to shoot 54 percent, the highest by any opponent this season. Teague sterling shooting night (he was perfect from long distance and from the line) couldn't make up for that, or for his lack of assists. Granted, offense wasn't the issue for Wake in this one, and yes, Teague's a combo guard playing point, but one assist isn't going to cut it in a game of this magnitude.
On the Cusp: Ty Lawson (UNC), Sherron Collins (Kansas), Jon Brockman (Washington), Jodie Meeks (Kentucky), DeMarre Carroll (Missouri)