Tennessee starting point guard Zakai Zeigler will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee during Tuesday evening's 75-57 win over Arkansas, the school announced Wednesday.
"We know -- beyond all doubt -- that Zakai will use this challenge to author an inspiring comeback story," the team said in a statement. "He'll have our boundless backing every step of the way."
Zeigler was averaging 10.7 points, 5.4 assists and two steals per game for Tennessee, which is projected as a No. 3 seed for the NCAA Tournament in Jerry Palm's latest Bracketology. The 5-foot-9 sophomore is a fan favorite who signed with the Volunteers late in the 2021 recruiting cycle as an unheralded three-star prospect from New York.
He quickly proved himself as a true freshman during the 2021-22 season with tenacious defense and a knack for dynamic offensive playmaking, despite his small stature. Zeigler ranks second in the SEC in assists per game this season and is tied for third in steals per game.
The Volunteers are regarded as the nation's top defensive squad, according to KenPom, but have dealt with prolonged offensive droughts. Zeigler is among the few natural shot creators on the roster capable of improvising in key moments to get teammates good looks in moments when the offense breaks down.
It’s all apart of God’s plan. Minor setback for a Major comeback🙏🏽🧡— Zakai Zeigler (@Realzakaiz) March 1, 2023
Without Zeigler, the Volunteers will likely rely on shooting guard Santiago Vescovi for more facilitating. They could also turn to senior guard Tyreke Key, an Indiana State transfer who has missed the past two games due to an ankle injury. Tennessee has already secured a double-bye for next week's SEC Tournament in Nashville.