Key players dropping at an alarming rate

By the time Cincinnati announced Tuesday night that starting wingman Rashad Bishop was suspended from its game against Rutgers for violating team rules, we had a full-blown Championship Week epidemic on our hands.

Key players are dropping at an alarming rate at the most important time of the season.

At least four of them have been suspended and/or benched in the last few days by their coaches/teams/schools for apparent off-court reasons. Whether players are losing focus or coaches are losing patience and trying to make a point before the NCAAs, it’s been a surprising trend at this time of year.

The perp list:

Taylor King, Villanova: Wildcats coach Jay Wright said Tuesday that King may not play in the Big East tournament while dealing with “personal stuff” that the coach did not disclose. King, who is the team’s No. 5 scorer and No. 2 rebounder, did not play in Nova’s season-ending loss to West Virginia. Wright said at the time that he was making a “teaching point” to King but did not elaborate.

Impact: Villanova will miss King in New York, but could miss him more beyond that in the NCAA tournament if he does not return. King gives the vertically challenged Wildcats rebounding and defensive help inside and has been known to hit some timely 3-point shots. If Nova wants to approximate its Final Four run of 2009, it needs all hands on deck.

Chris Allen, Michigan State: Spartans coach Tom Izzo announced that his most productive and accurate 3-point shooter is suspended indefinitely for not meeting obligations to his teammates. Allen is a starter averaging 9.1 points, but has scored just seven points in MSU’s last three games, making just 2 of 10 shots. He did not attempt a shot in the Spartans’ final regular-season game, a rout of Michigan.

Impact: The Big Ten co-champions have big goals and will need Allen, whose shooting has been a key ingredient for three seasons. If he isn’t back, the Spartans’ offense is hindered.

Sylven Landesberg, Virginia: The Cavaliers’ leading scorer at 17 points per game was benched for the rest of the season by the school for academic reasons. Landesberg already had missed two of the last three games as Virginia’s season has gone south. The Cavs (14-15, 5-11) have lost nine straight heading into their first-round Atlantic Coast Conference tournament game against Boston College Thursday at noon ET.

Impact: Just solidifies the inevitable. This UVa team wasn’t going to the NCAA tournament unless it won the ACC title, and that long shot is now all but impossible.

Rashad Bishop, Cincinnati: The Bearcats sat down Bishop Tuesday night for violating an unspecified team rule. The Newark, N.J., product’s role had been unchanged in recent games, so whatever happened must have occurred between Cincy’s final regular-season game Saturday afternoon and tipoff against the Scarlet Knights Tuesday night.

Impact: Bishop is third on the team in minutes per game and rebounds, and fourth in scoring. For a team that’s been offensively inept much of the season, that was an unwelcome development.