Wood's injury hinders Zips' tourney chances

“Chances of a return to the Mid-American Conference tournament finals were shredded along with Jeremiah Wood’s meniscus in his right knee. Anytime a team’s leading scorer and rebounder is injured, the effect is always negative. But in this case, it’s catastrophic.”

Chances of a return to the Mid-American Conference tournament finals were shredded along with Jeremiah Wood’s meniscus in his right knee.

Anytime a team’s leading scorer and rebounder is injured, the effect on a team is always negative. But in this case, it’s catastrophic.

Wood meant much more to the Zips than his team leading 13 points and nearly eight rebounds per game.

After an MRI on Friday showed Wood tore his meniscus in his troublesome right knee, Wood is expected to miss at least four weeks, meaning he could potentially return around the time the MAC tournament starts.

If Wood does return by that time it won’t matter much. How can he be expected to come in after a month off and play to form? He can’t.

In the meantime, the Zips will struggle mightily without their bruising center, on both ends of the court.

The Zips remaining post players- Chris McKnight, Quade Milum and Steve Bardo- have been largely ineffective this season.

Milum has been largely inconsistent, and Bardo has almost as many fouls (4) as points (5) in the last two games, even though he started against Ball State, a 3-19 team whom the Zips only beat by nine points.

McKnight is the only player who has shown he can be a factor during the Zips most important stretch of the season. He scored 18 points against Western Michigan and posted 11 points and eight rebounds against the Cardinals.

But none of them have a defensive presence quite like Wood, which the Zips will need.

They have seven regular season games before the tournament starts. Only two are easily winnable (Buffalo and Northern Illinois). The rest are up in the air.

The Zips play tough games on the road at Ohio and Miami- teams with dominating post presences in Jerome Tillman and Leon Williams for OU and Player of the Year candidate Tim Pollitz for the Redhawks.

Both games will be near impossible to win without Wood since the big man also opens up opportunities for guards Nick Dials, Steve McNeese and Cedrick Middleton, who hasn’t played well recently because of nagging injuries.

None are at their best when forced to make plays for themselves, which they’ll be forced to do more with Wood out of the way.

Twenty wins would be nice, and is still possible, but all that truly matters is how the Zips fair at the conference tournament.

If Wood does return, which I suspect he will, being his final year, it may not matter. How will he come off four weeks of recuperating and immediately be able to compete with the likes of Pollitz or Western Michigan’s Joe Reitz?

Besides, this is the crucial time of year when teams, especially MAC teams, must start building momentum leading up to the tournament.

The fact is, the Zips offense, which is the best in the conference, isn’t nearly as dangerous without Wood, and their team defense cannot hold up without an inside presence.

Even with Wood, however, this was a team that lost games to Portland State, Winthrop and Central Michigan, all of whom have RPI’s over 120.

Barring a minor miracle, UA’s season may have come to an end a little premature.