Memphis takes hit with Witherspoon injury

The big injury news of the week -- and, depending on how serious the injury becomes, perhaps the year -- is the mysteriously injured toe of Duke guard Kyrie Irving. The injury has the potential to change Duke's season, and though the Blue Devils will still be very good without Irving on the floor (it must be nice to turn point guard responsibilities over to a potential All-American and reigning national champ like Nolan Smith) Irving's toe could cause a downgrade from "surefire national title favorite" to "very good." It's a big deal.

Unfortunately, Irving's situation wasn't the only bit of bad injury news this week. Per Gary Parrish (and Memphis coach Josh Pastner) junior forward Wesley Witherspoon will have surgery today for a meniscus tear in his right knee. Witherspoon will miss five weeks after the surgery, meaning he's likely to return somewhere around mid-January.

Pastner told Parrish that Witherspoon injured the knee on Nov. 17 but played through it the past few weeks. That's impressive, especially given Witherspoon's production in that span. He has by far been the Tigers' most efficient offensive player to date. The 6-foot-9 forward gets to the line more than any player in the country, ranks No. 7 in the nation in true shooting percentage, and is among the top 100 players in Division I in offensive rating. The only thing missing from Witherspoon's repertoire is usage. With all that young talent dominating the ball, Witherspoon doesn't get many touches. He should get many more.

Memphis won't exactly have to learn to play without him; it's doing that more than it should already. And yet Witherspoon's absence will still have a major impact on the still-learning Tigers' offense. Tough break all around.