Villanova remains on top of the Associated Press and USA Today/coaches' polls, but the 11-0 Wildcats learned Tuesday that they will remain without the services of a key role player.
The school announced that a further evaluation of injured freshman guard Colin Gillespie revealed that he has a fractured bone in his left hand and will be out indefinitely.
Gillespie has not played since Dec. 5 when he logged seven minutes against Gonzaga.
A few days after that game, the 2016-17 Catholic League player of the year injured his wrist during a practice and missed games against La Salle and Temple. Villanova gave no timetable for when Gillespie will return to full basketball activities.
"We're really disappointed for Colin," Villanova coach Jay Wright said in a statement. "He was playing great for us. We miss him on this team. We're still struggling to replace him. But with his positive attitude and work ethic, he'll be back on the court as soon as he can."
Gillespie ranked seventh on the team in minutes played per game (13.2), and averaged 4.4 points in the first nine games.
If Gillespie does not play again this season, Villanova could pursue a medical redshirt after the season. There is never any guarantee about an NCAA decision, but Gillespie appears to be below the threshold of having played in 30 percent of the scheduled games.
The immediate concern for Villanova will be how to distribute the minutes Gillespie gave them without dramatically increasing minutes for its four primary guards.
Counting the 6-foot-6 Mikal Bridges as a guard/forward, Villanova still has four guards as its top players in minutes on the court. With Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, and Donte DiVincenzo all averaging more than 27 minutes per game, Gillespie was an outlet for not overextending any of them.
One option that may be considered more is using freshman forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree in a bigger lineup that would also feature forwards Omari Spellman and/or Eric Paschall.
If that works, 'Nova could play parts of games with two guards and three frontcourt players, allowing Wright to mix and match with his lineups.