Who's ready for some Justin Watts?
UNC has announced freshman guard P.J. Hairston will miss the Virginia game with a "sore foot." Here is the UNC release:
University of North Carolina freshman guard P.J. Hairston is sidelined with a sore left foot and will be unable to play in tomorrow's ACC game against the Virginia Cavaliers. Hairston has played in all 24 games and is the Tar Heels' seventh-leading scorer at 6.6 points per contest.
The Greensboro, N.C., native is wearing a protective boot on his left foot and will also not practice this afternoon. He is third on the team in three-pointers made with 30. He played 10 minutes but did not score in Wednesday's game against Duke
If this has been persisting it would explain a great many things. Hairston has been in a fairly significant shooting slump since going 4-9 from three vs Monmouth on New Year's Day. Through nine ACC games, Hairston is 6-35 from three point range with four of those makes coming in two games. Aside from the woeful shooting his defense has been extremely suspect to the point of being a liability. The question of how long the foot has been a problem is a pertinent one. Does it explain the prolonged slump or was the slump the routine kind but the injury deepened it? The best case scenario is Hairston can get healthy and return in time to make a meaningful contribution in the most crucial phase of the season.
The impact on UNC will be significant. Gary Parrish tweeted after the injury announcement that at some point the medical issues will begin to catch up with UNC. @Inside Carolina responded that it already has. The loss of Leslie McDonald was manageable and Dexter Strickland's injury somewhat less so but still within reason. Hairston being healthy and hitting shots was a key component to handling the loss of both McDonald and Strickland. Since Hairston is out completely the Heels will use a six man rotation plus spot minutes from Justin Watts and Stillman White. For now that will be okay provided Watts has a red light unless he is under the basket by himself. On the defensive end, Watts is athletic and has an understanding of what Roy wants him to do which could make him effective in spots. Beyond the regular season, not having Hairston would mean UNC's margin of error is actually less than zero which makes a run to the Final Four a very difficult proposition.
Speaking of Strickland, he underwent successful surgery to repair his meniscus and ACL on Thursday. Hopefully his rehab will go as well or better than McDonald's did.