Tar Heel fans, take a good look at the above picture. You won't see Marcus Ginyard in uniform again until next season.
Tonight, during the last few minutes of North Carolina's 108-91 obliteration of Maryland, it was announced that Ginyard would not play again in the 2008-09 season due to an injured left foot. He has been slow to recover from offseason surgery on the foot.
In addition, according to the Associated Press, Roy Williams announced that sophomore F Will Graves has been suspended for the remainder of the season for failing to "maintain the standards we expect of a Carolina basketball player."
No further information on Graves' situation was available at the time of this article.
Ginyard is widely respected as UNC's most talented defensive player, though his loss is a double-edged sword. He has excellent leadership qualities and will be an incredibly valuable resource for next year's young squad.
With the loss of Graves, UNC has now lost a starter (Ginyard) and two regular reserves, the other being Tyler Zeller. Zeller was injured after taking a hard foul at the end of the early-season win over Kentucky.
UNC's depth was considered a major advantage for them heading into the 2008-09 season, and it is crucial to maintaining the "run and gun" offense that helped push the Tar Heels to the Final Four last year.
Graves had not been particularly effective this season, shooting well under .300 from behind the arc. He had picked up his defense a bit of late, but his greatest asset was being able to spell the starters for about 10-12 quality minutes a game.
Though UNC showed no ill effects from the missing players tonight against Maryland, the competition will be much stiffer in later ACC play, and of course the NCAA tournament.
A few sportswriters may still consider North Carolina the top team in the nation (they received three first-place votes in the last AP poll), but they most certainly can no longer be considered a prohibitive favorite to win the national championship (nor were they before the loss of Graves and official loss of Ginyard).
Nothing will be handed to them despite the preseason media projections; any accomplishments the Heels eventually may achieve will have been earned through determination and persistence in the face of adversity.
Anything worth winning often is.