So far, Jake and I have discussed the issues that led to the build of this team’s roster. It was a nice tour of the early departures (Tuesday) and recruitment problems (yesterday) that have occurred in recent years. These should help you understand why the talent that lies on the ground doesn’t seem to match the level of other Carolina seasons.
However, as Jake outlined, it’s not like the Tar Heels are rolling on the ground with a Division III level squad. Roy Williams and the Carolina staff had to compete against several Power 5 programs to win the players who are on the ground today. Of course there are other reasons for their struggles besides the simple structure of the rosters.
Today’s trip takes us to head coach Doug Halverson’s office as we cross the mountain of injuries this current squad is facing. I have arranged them chronologically and I will only go to a game where someone is injured during an injury as mentioned before or has returned from an injury.
Out: Sterling Manley, Anthony Harris, Jeremiah Francis
Both Harris and Francis were out of the season for a long or long time, resulting in none of them expecting to produce much, if any, of anything in the 2019-20 season. So it wasn’t a shock that they hadn’t participated in any of the summer or fall exercises, and Carolina was supposed to have the depth to help them get back into the lineup
Manley has had knee problems since last year and unfortunately things hadn’t improved in the off-season. Despite the set-up, Manley did not take part in any training to start the season and did not fit before the first game.
11/1 exhibition against Winston-Salem State
Injured during the game: Brandon Robinson
Senior Brandon Robinson clumsily fell on his ankle and needed help to get off the floor in this win. The ankle was badly sprained, and soon he was seen rolling around on a special cart on Chapel Hill, which meant that he would not be there for Carolina on the opening night.
Before the season started, Carolina had lost four fellows, one of whom was expected to be a starter.
11 / 27-11 / 29 Battle 4 Atlantis
Returned; Brandon Robinson
Injured: Cole Anthony
Carolina would play four games, all wins without her senior wing and this month without Robinson on the floor, which hindered the team’s development. His use on Battle 4 Atlantis added some depth, but it was obvious that he was rusty. Robinson’s shooting was over and he showed how miserable his ankle was after he became lame in beating Oregon. This month, along with the various vacation breaks and trips, he probably only slowed down last weekend against Clemson, where he was by far his best game of the season.
Cole completed the tournament and two other games. However, the video review of his game revealed that he went down against Alabama. His game dropped noticeably after the fall, but we wouldn’t find out how much he was injured until much later. He alluded to his Instagram stories just as much.
12/4 Ohio State
Injured: Armando Bacot
An exciting showdown in the Big 10 ACC Challenge was quickly thwarted when Bacot twisted his ankle in the first half. It looked bad at the time, to the point where Roy had no idea how long he would be out after the game. Without Bacot, much of Roy’s crime was gone, and the state of Ohio had nothing to worry about except a limping Cole Anthony.
In retrospect, the season really got worse in this game.
Returned: Armando Bacot, Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris
Bacot’s ankle miraculously got better in a couple of days and he could compete and play against the Wahoos. The problem was that you started with five starts: a limping Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot with a freshly injured ankle and Brandon Robinson who was about a month behind the curve and played with his teammates. I haven’t listed Leaky Black as injured here, but it’s possible that he limped too, considering he’d miss the next game.
At that point, Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris made a surprising debut. It was only after the game that we learned that the two had trained, and with the obvious struggles for Tar Heel on the offensive, Coach Williams was obviously trying to breathe life into the ground.
The worst thing is that these are the most players that Roy would have available this season. At least two of them were injured and two played their first game in over a year.
Out: Cole Anthony, Leaky Black
Confirmed for the year: Sterling Manley
It was only in that game, more than two weeks after he was likely to have suffered the Alabama injury, that the pain in Anthony’s knee had progressed to the point that he and the coaching staff decided to sit down. Unfortunately, this news came just before the game, and to make things even more complicated, the usual backup of Leaky Black hurt. So the Tar Heels had to roll with KJ Smith and Jeremiah Francis, with Francis playing his second game overall. Before the game, it was also announced that Sterling Manley would have to undergo knee surgery and would not return this season. This basically confirmed what most people had assumed at the time.
Stop me if you’ve heard that before, but the heels lost an early lead and Wofford took over and won in the second half. Now it’s time to go out on the street.
The good news is that Black’s injury only kept him off the ground for one game and Roy Francis could lure a little more into the Point Guard spot.
Aside from the fact that Gonzaga ran away with this game, the bad news is that Black hasn’t looked quite healthy since the absence of the Wofford game.
Out: Andrew Platek
Injured: Anthony Harris
After fighting Gonzaga and defeating UCLA, the Tar Heels managed to gain some traction against a Yale team that Clemson defeated earlier this year. Junior Guard Andrew Platek had an ankle problem that occurred shortly before this game and caused Anthony Harris to play more minutes because Williams was under-guard and wanted to get him more into basketball shape.
Things went well until there was about three minutes left in the second half when Harris’s knee buckled as he fell. The instant facial expression sucked the Smith Center and the team out of the house, and the Tar Heels could hardly stand to win.
1/4 Georgia Tech
Out: Andrew Platek
Confirmed for the year: Anthony Harris
The day before this game, UNC officially announced that Harris had torn his ACL and was ready for the season. Platek was still outside, and while Anthony was still rehabilitating, someone who could play the two for Platek in Leaky Black had to be on guard for some time, since Francis was relatively rough and KJ Smith wasn’t producing enough. This confusion showed up early on in the game, we don’t have to retell how it went.
1 / 8th Pittsburgh
Returned: Andrew Platek
Injured: Jeremiah Francis
Finally some good news on the injury front when Platek’s ankle seemed to be getting better and he could slip into the rotation. This allowed Williams to play Francis a bit more at this point, since he had shown he was good at leading the team. Unfortunately, he was gone from the game as long as he felt he had no lifting, and as the game continued, it was clear that something was wrong.
This crystallized when Carolina lost a second half lead, this time with Leaky Black, who played long distances on Point Guard despite a strong run from Pitt. When Francis returned, the Panthers were in the lead and were able to end the breakdown on the ACC road.
Out: Jeremiah Francis
And so we get to our last game where, thanks to the combination of injuries and players for the year, the Tar Heels were left with a lineup that saw starters Brandon Robinson, Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot and Andrew plateking between 36 and 41 minutes. The bank went only three times deep (Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce and KJ Smith), and they played only 31 minutes in total. In an overtime game.
Read that again. Three players play less time together than one of the starters.
In summary, Carolina has played 16 games this season. Here are the fellows who missed games:
Sterling Manley-16 (for the year)
Anthony Harris-11 (out for the year)
Jeremiah Francis-9 (not yet returned)
Cole Anthony-7 (previously 4-6 week schedule)
With these injuries, players missed a total of 50.5 games. If all thirteen were healthy, they could play a total of 208 games (16 x 13 grants, which corresponds to a maximum playing time of 200 minutes). You can play your players during one game. In other words, Roy has played all season without 25% of his available availability of scholarship players.
This does not even take into account that some of the players who have received a scholarship have been missed or have not fully exploited their potential, so Williams cannot consider them an option. Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce, KJ Smith and Brandon Huffman are all on a scholarship and struggling to produce on the floor in difficult minutes.
Incidentally, this trend will continue as Manley and Harris are done all year round. We’re not sure when Cole Anthony will return, and it was announced that Brandon Robinson had a car accident on Sunday (thank God he’s fine because car accidents with drunk drivers are scary. Of course, coach Williams will not be his full list, the question will be how many games the fellows will have missed in the end.
Tomorrow, Jake closes it all up by talking about coaching decisions made before and during this season. This is the last piece of the puzzle in this season’s disaster.