Thanks to losses to Dayton, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and St. John's during non-league play, Georgia Tech already faced an uphill battle in its quest to earn an NCAA tournament bid this season.
The path became even more challenging on Thursday with the announcement that one of the Yellowjackets' top players will be sidelined indefinitely.
Forward Robert Carter will undergo surgery next week to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee after an MRI exam taken Tuesday revealed the injury. There's no timetable for the 6-foot-8 sophomore's return, but it's certainly possible the rest of Carter's season may be in jeopardy.
"He's a tough kid, and this hit him pretty hard," Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said in a statement released Thursday by the school. "He's done everything we've asked of him this year. He's changed his body, he's become more aggressive on the glass, and his stats clearly show that he was having a tremendous sophomore season for us. He's a big part of what we do both offensively and defensively. We won't know exactly what the nature of the injury is until the surgery occurs."
Carter's injury deprives Georgia Tech (9-4) of one of its two top big men, a double-double threat who controlled the glass and also played solid post defense.
In two seasons at Georgia Tech, Carter has started every game he has played and he has averaged 10.3 points and 9.3 boards this year. Even though he sustained the injury during Sunday's victory at Charlotte, he still logged 30 minutes and contributed eight points and eight rebounds.
Six-foot-11 Daniel Miller will have to anchor the frontcourt in the absence of Carter, but Georgia Tech needs other forwards to emerge alongside him. Six-foot-8 senior Kammeon Holsey is the obvious choice to start in place of Carter, while 6-foot-8 freshman Quinton Stephens also will see his role increase.
Mediocre point guard play and a lack of outside shooting already made it unlikely for Georgia Tech to emerge from the underachieving middle of the ACC and make a run at an NCAA tournament bid.
Unless others step up while Carter is out, that goal looks all the more unattainable.