Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports is reporting that UNC freshman Tyler Zeller will be returning to the Tar Heels lineup most likely in time for tomorrow night’s game against North Carolina State. According to Steve Kirschner, the Associate Director of Athletics for Communications at UNC, “It’s 99 percent that he’ll play tomorrow night.” Zeller, who broke his wrist while being fouled on a breakaway dunk (see below) against Kentucky, played well in his only game of the season as he scored 18 against Penn in the Tar Heels season-opener playing in place of the injured Tyler Hansbrough.
UNC fans were expecting to have a formidible interior with reigning national POY in Hansbrough, junior Deon Thompson, and the two freshman (Zeller and Ed Davis). Hansbrough has been Hansbrough although not as dominant as we expected (more on that in a post later this week), Thompson has played well in stretches, and Davis has been UNC’s best interior defender. However, both Thompson and Davis have had a drop-off in their production recently. Zeller may not add a lot to the Tar Heels interior defense, but he can certainly contribute offensively.
When combined with the announcement yesterday that UConn‘s Jerome Dyson was done for the season, this seems to shift the balance of power over to UNC although Pittsburgh fans may disagree after their performance on the road yesterday. In any case, it definitely makes the Tar Heels a tougher out in the tournament as they now have the strongest inside game in the country to go along with a lightning fast point guard in Ty Lawson and a sharpshooter who has found his range in Wayne Ellington.