Cruel, but true: Ed Davis' injury is good for North Carolina

This is going to sound cruel, heartless and maybe even preposterous, but the season-ending wrist injury Ed Davis suffered this week against Duke is the best news North Carolina has gotten in weeks.

Yes, Davis may have been the Tar Heels' best player. Yes, they can't replace his 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and stout low-post defense. And yes, there's no chance they make a last-ditch surge in the ACC tournament without him.

But let's be realistic here, folks. This season is over, done, kaput. The injury to Davis gives North Carolina coach Roy Williams a chance to evaluate some of the talented but unproven players behind him in the rotation without appearing to have quit on this season.

Plus, isn't it possible that this wrist injury hurts Davis' draft stock just enough that the projected lottery pick opts to return to school for his junior season to join North Carolina's heralded recruiting class for another Final Four push?

For reasons that I must admit baffle me, most mock drafts have Davis going in the top 10 in this summer's NBA draft.

If all indications are that NBA general managers don't need to see Davis prove he can be a consistent force in college to select him that high, then by all means he must leave school. But if concern over the wrist injury and a lackluster final eight games of the season causes Davis' draft stock to slide, maybe North Carolina gets its best big man back next season.

Even if Davis has played his final game in Tar Heel blue, at least his understudies have a few weeks to show whether they're reading for a lead role next season. Now we'll find out whether the much-ballyhooed John Henson is strong enough to score inside at the college level and whether the Wear twins (or at least the healthy one) are truly ACC-level recruits.

Heck, maybe this will be the impetus Williams needs to finally give more backcourt playing time to freshmen Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald. Strickland is still sketchy defensively and a little turnover-prone, but how much worse can he be than starting point guard Larry Drew, whose 4 for 15 shooting against Duke was a result of some poor shot selection.

As's Jeff Goodman wrote after the Duke loss, North Carolina is a program caught between its glorious past and bright future. Maybe Davis' injury ushers in that bright future a little sooner.

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