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Florida's John Egbunu has torn ligament in thumb, cleared to play against Arkansas

Florida's big man being out might be a big problem.

Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Florida center John Egbunu tore a ligament in his right thumb at practice this week, per the team's website, leaving the Gators in a bind as their SEC Tournament opener against Arkansas on Thursday looms.

Sophomore center John Egbunu tore a ligament in his right thumb at practice, leaving his availability for this week's Southeastern Conference Tournament in doubt. The 6-foot-11, 245-pounder will suit up for Florida (18-13) in Thursday's second-round game against Arkansas (16-15), but how effective he can be with his hand in a fitted, functional brace is in doubt. He is, however, cleared to play, according to trainer David "Duke" Werner.

"Realistically, I don't know how much he'll be able to go," UF coach Mike White said.

Egbunu's been a force down low for the Gators of late, averaging 18 points per game over his last four contests and scoring a career-high 27 points against Kentucky. With only one healthy hand, it's hard to see him being nearly as effective, especially on the offensive end — though, in fairness, Egbunu had three blocks while adding only nine points in Florida's win at Missouri.

And he, or his full-strength version, will be missed against Arkansas, which is led by 6'10" center Moses Kingsley. Kingsley had 15 points and nine rebounds against Florida in February, but also committed five turnovers and five fouls, partly a testament to good defense by Egbunu.

If Egbunu cannot play or is limited, Florida may try smaller lineups, and will certainly play freshman Kevarrius Hayes more. Hayes hasn't played more than 21 minutes in a game all season, and only played those 21 minutes against Michigan State in December because of profound foul trouble for Egbunu.

More minutes for Hayes is far more likely than more for Schuyler Rimmer, who has just three minutes in Florida's last five games, and did not play in the Gators' last three contests.

Florida essentially must win multiple games in the SEC Tournament to have a realistic shot of making the NCAA Tournament, and will only be assured of a spot in the field of 68 with a surprising run to the tournament title.