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John Shurna’s ankle injury could play a role in Northwestern’s tournament bid

John Shurna rolled his ankle against Mt. St. Mary’s in the Wildcat’s 70-47 win on Thursday.

It was bad enough that Shurna not only didn’t return to the game, but he he has yet to be able to go at full speed in practice.

“He’s not jumping now,” Wildcats coach Bill Carmody said. “He’s a pretty tough kid, and hopefully he’ll able to do more (Wednesday). By Thursday, we should know. But I don’t want to guess. I just leave it up to the trainers.”
Carmody said the injury is at the “ball” of the ankle, and “these things can linger or fade away.”

Normally, rolled ankles don’t deserve blog posts, not even when they happen to the Big Ten’s leading scorer. If you make it through an entire basketball season without turning your ankle, than you can consider yourself lucky.

So what makes this particular rolled ankle different?

Northwestern is the only high-major program in the country that has never made it to the NCAA Tournament. If they are going to break that streak, this is the year. The Wildcat’s have a load of talent and a number of pieces that fit perfectly into Carmody’s Princeton-style offense.

But starting on Friday, Northwestern kicks off their Big Ten season, and they do it in style -- heading to Purdue on New Year’s Eve before hosting Michigan State on January 3rd and traveling to Illinois on the 6th.

With the Big Ten struggling in non-conference play -- they were just 15-17 against other high-major programs -- the league may not be able to pull in as many tournament bids as we expected coming into the season. Northwestern went 9-1 in non-conference play, but their best win came against Georgia Tech (yuck) and they lost by 16 to St. John’s, allowing the Johnnies to shoot 80% in the second half (double yuck).

In other words, Northwestern may need to crack a tough top six in the Big Ten -- which includes Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State, and Illinois -- if they want to fulfill their destiny of a tournament bid.

The first three games of Big Ten play is probably the most important three game stretch of the season for Northwestern.

They cannot afford to have Shurna playing below 100%.

For what its worth, Northwestern point guard Michael “Juice” Thompson said Shurna is “acting like he’s not hurt and wants to play. I think he’ll be fine.”

So there’s that.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.