John Henson remained on the sidelines for the championship game of the ACC Tournament on Sunday as he nursed his left wrist, but Roy Williams and North Carolina better let him rest because this team is not a premiere team in the NCAA Tournament without him.
Henson injured his left wrist on Friday against Maryland and was a game-time decision for the ACC Tournament final against Florida State on Sunday, but did not play, causing some grave concern in North Carolina.
However, the Tar Heels are not a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, nor are they a realistic Final Four team without Henson, who was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year this season.
Henson's inside presence was sorely missed by North Carolina against Florida State, who is a big, physical team inside. UNC's Tyler Zeller and others were forced to pick up the slack around the rim, yet the Seminoles were able to drive in the paint without the threat of Henson in the area..
The junior forward, who is a likely lottery pick in the 2012 NBA Draft if he decides to declare, is also a tremendous player on the offensive boards. He is averaging 2.6 offensive rebounds per game this season.
He is also 18th in the country in rebounds per game with 10.1, but it is his presence in the paint that makes the Tar Heels a dangerous defensive team. That did not show on Sunday against Florida State.
North Carolina cannot afford to lose anybody entering the NCAA Tournament. They already lost Dexter Strickland to injury earlier this season, and he had started every game of the year to that point. Losing Henson would only dig this team in a bigger hole than they already are without one of their starters.
Henson should and will return. In fact, we can pencil him in for at least an appearance in the first round of the NCAA Tournament either Thursday or Friday. It is how that wrist will hold up when the competition really begins that will tell the story of how this team will do the tournament.
North Carolina may get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but without Henson this team is officially on upset watch. Matching them up with a tall, physical team in the paint could signal some trouble for UNC in March.