So let's delve into what Tuesday's announcement of Marcus Ginyard's redshirt and Will Graves' suspension means.
Why is he being redshirted?
The bottom line is Ginyard is still injured. According to Ginyard himself, there is pain in the foot when he moves laterally and it was clear he would be 100% this season. He considered it "cheating his teammates" to play with the pain if it meant he would not be fully effective. Given his greatest value is on defense, especially against fast perimeter players, Ginyard not being able to move laterally is a dealbreaker.
Impact on this season?
In my opinion it has already been felt, this just squashes any hope Ginyard would return to give them a boost in the NCAA Tournament. Even then given the amount of time needed to get Ginyard back to form, questions would abound over whether he could really be effective. So we can speculate as to how much he will be missed but we also have no idea if Ginyard would have gotten back to full form. The only thing this annoucement does is signal to the rest of the team they have to dig deep and find something in their game they may not have realized was there. For Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Ty Lawson and Bobby Frasor it will be imperative they raise their game on the defensive end another notch. Granted they should have been doing that already but now there is no other choice. Either bring it or the Heels will not see Detroit.
Impact on next season?
The proverbial silver lining. Assuming Lawson and Ellington leave(worst case scenario) Ginyard gives you a senior leader to shepard a young team. UNC has five talented freshmen coming in which will bolster the roster. Alongside Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, Larry Drew and Tyler Zeller, the Heels will probably not be a title favorite but definitely in the conversation. The only issue this team will have is who will be the wing shooter if Ellington does go to the NBA. Dexter Strickland will come in as the highest rated SG and could fill the roll as Larry Drew's backcourt mate with Ginyard at SF, Tyler Zeller at center and either Ed Davis or Deon Thompson or even John Henson at PF. Henson is supposedly a Kevin Durant type versatile player which makes gives Roy some options on the lineup. Add the Wear Twins and freshman Leslie McDonald(another Ginyard type player) there is depth, albeit it young. Larry Drew also needs to improve to be able to command this team on the floor. With all that in mind, having Ginyard along with Thompson gives a young team some much needed veteran leadership. And with Ginyard you get a quality defender back.
Why was he suspended?
Anyone's guess. The official statement is failing to meet "the standard expected of a Tar Heel player." That really could be anything from skipping class to smoking pot to a general attitude problem. What is odd about it is no one saw this coming. The message boards usually get a whiff of an issue like this but it came out of the blue last night five minutes after the game ended. Based on the comments Roy made the decision came in the last 48 hours and he expects Graves will be a part of the team next season though that in itself will be evaluated.
Impact on this season?
Much like the Ginyard situation, not having Graves has been factored in with the exception of the depth issue. UNC is now very thin in the backcourt. If Danny Green gets in foul trouble, which he is prone to do, Roy would either have to go small with a three guard offense of Lawson, Ellington and Frasor or he goes big with Ed Davis or Mike Copeland at SF. Graves was bringing very little to the table on either end of the floor. It would have been nice to see Graves come off the bench for about two threes and 10 points per game. That was not happening so his value had everything to do with depth and very little in the way of production otherwise. His loss, like Ginyard has been factored in. The question is whether this team now has enough. Only if the rest of the players raise their game.
Impact on next season?
Assuming Graves returns and can find his jumpshot he could be a key contributor off the bench. Heck, if he gets his head on straight, figures out how to play defense and shoots the ball he could be the 2nd coming of Danny Green from 2008. I think whether or not that happens is completely on the young man's shoulders. I do know Roy and the coaching staff are a supportive bunch and what we may be witnessing is some brand of tough love in hopes Graves can ultimately becomes a better player and person. That is why he remains with the team and still will be a part of practice. We can only hope this is a moment that will be the subject of an amazing story when Graves is a key part to a Final Four run in either(or both) of the next two seasons.
The X Factor
The question now is what happens with Tyler Zeller? Roy said Zeller would see the doctor on Wednesday and a determination would be made concerning his status. At that point Roy planned to discuss it with Zeller and his parents to see if he wanted to play this season.
My gut feeling: Zeller is coming back.
I believe Roy when he says there is no colleration between what happens with Zeller and the other two players. I also think Roy will leave the decision up to Zeller and his parents. That being said, I think Zeller is going to make the choice to come back and help his team assuming his health permits it.
However, getting Zeller back only mitigates some of the problem. Zeller will provide some depth, a big body down low and may be an upgrade to the general way UNC defends and rebounds on the interior. Getting Zeller does nothing when it comes to perimeter defense which is where Ginyard would have helped. In short Zeller's return would be helpful but there are still some gaps that the backcourt/wing contingent are going to have to work hard to cover own their own.
This team can still win the national title and if they catch some nice breaks in terms of seeding as well as a bad night or two by an opponent, then things could work out. You must never underestimate an experienced team in the NCAA Tournament nor the oft mocked will of Tyler Hansbrough. Winning it all is why Hansbrough return and I still believe that regardless of the other things they may have gone wrong there is a good chance Hansbrough takes this team on his back come tournament time. If he does that with Lawson, Ellington and Green playing their best basketball of the season, UNC can finish the job.