North Carolina Tar Heels: James Michael McAdoo Playing With Bulging Disk

By Michael Roberts
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

James Michael McAdoo showed off his toughness and ability to play through pain for the North Carolina Tar Heels after competing against the Duke Blue Devils with a bulging disk in his back.

Those who were unaware of the injury would have had a difficult time noticing anything wrong with the 6-foot-9 sophomore after he recorded team highs 15 points and 34 minutes of action in the Duke loss.

McAdoo aggravated his back in North Carolina’s season-high sixth straight win after defeating the Maryland Terrapins on Mar. 6. He managed to finish with 10 points and two rebounds after playing 33 minutes.

The Tar Heels likely wouldn’t have been able to extend their win-streak to seven games against Duke, even with a healthy McAdoo. The Blue Devils are firing on all cylinders since the return of Ryan Kelly, and even though North Carolina has played its best basketball of the season lately, defeating Duke was still a level the Tar Heels weren’t ready for.

The big concern over McAdoo’s injury is obviously how it will affect the team moving forward now that the regular season has wrapped up. As the Tar Heels’ leading scorer and rebounder, the last thing the team needs to hear is one of their key players is about to be limited at the most important time of the year.

McAdoo is averaging 14.6 points and 7.6 rebounds this season and has already been forced to miss practice time due to the injury. If he’s forced to miss game time, then North Carolina’s chances of success in either the ACC Tournament or NCAA Tournament, drastically take a hit. It’s one thing for McAdoo to play quality minutes against an arch-rival like Duke, but how will he hold up in the marathon of post-season tournament games is an entirely different factor.

North Carolina has pieces that can take pressure off of McAdoo with the emergence of Reggie Bullock in recent weeks, along with P.J. Hairston putting up impressive numbers. The trio had combined to make the Tar Heels look very threatening entering the conference tournament, something not many could have foreseen at the beginning of the January.

Although Bullock and Hairston have been playing well in recent weeks, if McAdoo is placed on the bench due to his injury, all of a sudden the defensive focus gets ramped up on the duo. Even an unhealthy McAdoo will command significant attention from the opposition which makes life a lot easier for his teammates. Without that worry on the defense’s mind, it’s unclear how it could affect the play of Bullock and Hairston.

Either way, North Carolina began the week riding as high as they had all year long, looking like a legitimate contender for the conference tournament along with the type of team that could make some noise during March Madness.

All of a sudden, due to the questions surrounding McAdoo’s injury, uncertainty will plague the Tar Heels until a clearer indication is revealed of just how severe the injury is.

Michael covers ACC and Big East basketball, along with offering thoughts on the NBA and NHL for Rant Sports, you can follow him on Twitter @MichaelxRoberts


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