No. 12 Tennessee loses starting PG Zakai Zeigler to ACL tear just weeks before NCAA tournament

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE - FEBRUARY 25: Zakai Zeigler #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers stands on the court against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena on February 25, 2023 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
Zakai Zeigler's season is done. (Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

Tennessee basketball announced on Wednesday that starting point guard Zakai Zeigler has a torn left ACL and will miss the NCAA tournament.

Zeigler suffered the injury during Tuesday's win over Arkansas. He fell to the court after planting his left leg and needed help off the court. The news is a brutal blow for Zeigler and a 12th-ranked Vols team that has its sights set on a deep NCAA tournament run.

"The Tennessee basketball family joins all of Vol Nation in lifting up Zakai with love and support," Tennessee's announcement reads. " We know — beyond all doubt — that Zakai will use this challenge to author an inspiring comeback story. He'll have our boundless backing every step of the way."

Vols forced to scramble at point guard

Zeigler, a sophomore, averaged 10.7 points, 5.4 assists and two steals per game this season. An elite defender, he was one of 10 players named last week as a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award. He was the only true point guard on the roster to see significant playing time.

With Zeigler out, the Vols will likely look to a committee at point guard. Freshman BJ Edwards, a four-star prospect, has averaged 4.4 minutes per game in just 13 appearances this season. He could be thrust into a more significant role at the most critical juncture of the season.

Senior starting combo guard Santiago Vescovi will likely see more run at point guard with the starting unit. Senior combo guard Tyreke Key has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, but is expected to return soon. He also projects to see some time running the offense.

Tennessee will play its regular-season finale against Auburn on Saturday ahead of next week's SEC tournament.