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Jeff Eisenberg

Could Onuaku's injury cost Syracuse a No. 1 seed?

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The big question that emerged from Georgetown's Big East quarterfinal upset over Syracuse has nothing to do with the Orange's sudden struggles or the Hoyas maddening inconsistency.

Those are both secondary issues until we learn the severity of Arinze Onuaku's right knee injury.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called Onuaku's injury a "strain" after the game but cautioned that nobody should breathe easy until the senior center undergoes an MRI on Friday morning. Onuaku sustained the injury battling Greg Monroe for a rebound late in the second half, landing awkwardly and crumbling to the ground clutching his knee.

"I think he'll be back unless something bad happens tomorrow," Syracuse team doctor Irving Raphael told the New York Times. "I've seen him worse."

A major injury would have been the only Big East tournament scenario that could have cost Syracuse a No. 1 seed, but the absence of Onuaku would probably not be enough to jeopardize that.

Whereas Kenyon Martin was a national player of the year candidate when Cincinnati dropped to a No. 2 seed after losing him in its conference tournament in 2000, Onuaku is more a role player, albeit a significant one.

A more legitimate question might be whether Syracuse can still contend for a national title if Onuaku can't play. The Orange only went seven deep even before the injury and they would miss Onuaku's low-post scoring, offensive rebounding and sturdy defense.

Onuaku's mother was optimistic after the game when she spoke to the New York Times.

"He's fine," she said. "He will be back for the NCAA tournament."

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