The Tar Heels however, will be without freshman forward Joel James for a third consecutive game following a recent decision to once again hold out the 6-foot-10 Florida-native due to an ongoing concussion. James, who has been a true role player for head coachRoy Williams this season, has not played since Feb. 9. UNC is 1-1 in games without James.
“We think he’s getting better, he thinks he’s getting better, but he’s not there yet,’” Williams told ESPN.com‘s Robbi Pickeral during a conference call.
It is believed that the injury to James occurred in a Feb. 5 contest against Wake Forest, despite the nine minutes he played on Feb. 9. While dealing with a concussion, James probably should have been held out on Feb. 9 and began his recovery immediately, although his importance is not game-changing for the Tar Heels.
On the season, James is averaging 2.7 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, but the freshman has only exceeded 20 minutes in a game twice this year.
At 17-8 overall, the Tar Heels are not in a position in which they should feel comfortable with their postseason potential. UNC still has some work to do to even lock up a berth within the Big Dance and Tuesday night is just another opportunity to press forward in that regard.
With North Carolina State coming to town this weekend, their trip to play Georgia Tech on Tuesday is the definition of a trap game. The Tar Heels need to focus on beating the lowly Yellow Jackets and gather some momentum for Saturday’s test with the Wolfpack.
Follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS