All season, Rachel Hargis has been a rock in the middle of the lineup for the Colorado women's basketball team.
Now, the Buffaloes might have to play without her.
A 6-foot-4 junior center from Robinson, Texas, Hargis tore the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in her right knee during practice on Friday.
CU did not reveal whether it was a full or partial tear, and as of Tuesday, it was unknown whether Hargis will be able to play on Saturday when the 19th-ranked Buffs (25-6) take on Kansas (18-13) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Boulder.
"We're just taking it a day at a time," Buffs head coach Linda Lappe said. "We don't know anything yet. It depends on how fast she can feel stable, basically.
"She's progressing, for sure. She's looking good so far."
Hargis is the only player on the team to have started all 31 games for the Buffaloes this season. She averages 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game and has been one of CU's best defensive players. She earned honorable mention from Pac-12 coaches for the league's All-Defense team.
If Hargis can't play, it seems likely that freshman Jamee Swan would take her spot in the lineup. In recent weeks, Swan has seen increased playing time in games where Hargis has gotten into foul trouble.
The Buffs could also give more minutes to sophomore forward Jen Reese or senior forward Meagan Malcolm-Peck.
"We'll have a plan for sure," Lappe said. "The good thing about our team, injuries haven't bothered us yet."
Various injuries have prevented the Buffs from being at full strength for much of the season, but they have always found players to fill in the gaps. They may have to fill a big gap if Hargis can't play.
"That's the good thing about having depth," Lappe said. "If it so happens that she can't (play), we have a lot of options and we have players that are ready. They're ready because they practice hard, they're ready because they stay mentally into it, even if they don't get a lot of minutes on the court.
"It'll be fun to see exactly who needs to step up if we need somebody."
Return to normalcy
Tuesday was the first time in about a week and a half that the Buffs held a practice in preparation for a specific opponent. They haven't played since March 9 and didn't know they were playing Kansas until Monday night's NCAA Tournament bracket was revealed.
"We're ready to have a team to play, we're ready to scout, we're ready to do some of those things," Lappe said. "It was tough when we did practice last week to just practice without having a goal in mind. Today, it was back to normal. It was familiar to us. I feel like we're going to feel really good on Saturday."
Lappe said the Buffs were "sharp" on both offense and defense Tuesday.
"We practiced like we've practiced all year long," she said. "I didn't see much difference, which is a good thing. You want to keep that consistency."
Scouting the Jayhawks
Lappe and her staff are working overtime to scout the Jayhawks, whom they haven't played since the 2010-11 season, when they were both members of the Big 12.
"They are a pretty veteran team, especially their three leading scorers," Lappe said. "They've been playing since they were freshmen, so they have experience, they have NCAA Tournament experience.
"Their system is very similar to what I remember (from two years ago)."
Lappe said Kansas will present some challenges on defense and that the Jayhawks will play mostly man-to-man on defense.
"We'll get up and pressure at times, but I feel like we will have some opportunities to score in different ways," she said.
CU's Chucky Jeffery earned WBCA All-Region VIII recognition on Tuesday. She is one of four players -- along with California's Gennifer Brandon and Lyshia Clarendon and Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike -- to earn that recognition from Region VIII. Those four will join the pool of 52 all-region players from around the country in consideration for the 10-player WBCA All-American team.
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