Willie Cauley-Stein injury: Kentucky big man unlikely to play in Elite 8

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky's center is listed as "doubtful" by coach John Calipari.
SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

Kentucky is likely to be without its best rim protector, 7-foot sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein, when the Wildcats play Michigan in the Elite 8 on Sunday. Cauley-Stein suffered an ankle injury early in the first half of Kentucky's win over Louisville in the Sweet 16 and did not return. Coach John Calipari told reporters he would be "shocked" if Cauley-Stein played on Sunday and listed him as "doubtful".

Losing a 7-footer of Cauley-Stein's caliber would be a death blow this late in the tournament for most teams, but Kentucky is uniquely equipped to handle the injury. Freshman center Dakari Johnson -- all 7-feet, 260 lbs. of him -- played his best game of the season in Cauley-Stein's absence against the Cardinals on Friday night, making of 7-of-10 shots to finish with 15 points. Johnson, a McDonald's All-American a year ago, averaged five points and 3.9 rebounds on the season.

The 20-year-old Cauley-Stein is currently ranked as the No. 13 overall prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft by Draft Express. He's rated as the second best center behind Kansas' Joel Embiid.

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