North Carolina, already in the midst of a four-game losing streak, can't seem to catch a break - unless it's a real one.
With sophomore Ed Davis likely out for the rest of the season because of a broken bone in his left wrist, the Tar Heels - who once thought frontcourt depth would be the strength of their team - are now going to be scrambling for big bodies when they play N.C. State today.
Reserve 7-footer Tyler Zeller, who has already been sidelined for more than a month with a broken bone in his right foot, isn't due to return until the end of next week at the earliest. Reserve freshman forward Travis Wear is still out with a severely sprained left ankle and won't play against the Wolfpack.
That leaves senior starter Deon Thompson at one slot in the post, and David Wear or John Henson (who has recently moved from small forward to power forward) starting in the other slot. Will Graves, the starter at small forward at 6 feet 6, will also have to help fill in.
"It's hard to lose any starter, but when you lose someone likely for the rest of the season who does so many different things for your team, it's a significant loss," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said in a prepared statement Friday. "[Ed's] our second-leading scorer, top rebounder, shot blocker and field-goal percentage shooter, so it's a huge blow to our team."
Davis, who was averaging 13.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, broke the lunate bone in his left wrist when he fell to the floor in a mid-lane collision with 9:16 to play against Duke on Wednesday.
The left-handed shooter had his wrist taped, re-entered the game, and tied a career high with six blocked shots during the loss - although he didn't score again.
Tests showed no ligament damage, and no surgery is planned. But his wrist will be immobilized for at least the next six weeks.
"We have to band together and try to overcome this latest adversity caused by injury," Williams said in the statement.
But it will be difficult.
The Tar Heels (13-11, 2-7 ACC) have lost seven of their last eight games. Their only win during that stretch - at N.C. State on Jan. 26, when Davis had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Today's rivalry game will pit the teams with the two worst ACC records; State is 14-11 overall and 2-8 in conference play.
UNC, the defending national champion, has had a multitude of problems during its free fall - poor ballhandling, bad free-throw shooting, long offensive droughts, inconsistent (at best) defense. And injuries have only exacerbated the woes.
Davis will be the seventh UNC player this season to miss at least one game because of injury. In addition to Zeller and Travis Wear, senior Marcus Ginyard missed four games because of a sore foot and sprained ankle; freshman Dexter Strickland missed a game because of a hamstring injury; and Graves and reserve sophomore Justin Watts each missed a game because of sprained ankles.