When the North Carolina Tar Heels escaped the Arkansas Razorbacks to solidify their spot in the Sweet 16, fans and coaches alike were ecstatic to see the Heels back in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Still, the win came at a cost as sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks sustained a sprained left knee putting his status for their round of 16 matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers in danger. North Carolina will need all the front court help they can get as the program attempts to matchup with Naismith Trophy favorite Frank Kaminsky.
“Kennedy has a knee sprain,” UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference. “That’s all we’re saying right now. We think that’s all it is, but we’ll get some X-rays or MRIs, or both, when we get back and find out what it is.”
The injury occurred when a charge was accredited to guard Nate Britt and the falling Razorback defender, Anthlon Bell, rolled up on the left knee of Meeks. Meeks was in obvious pain immediately dropping to the court grasping his left knee.
The severity of the injury remains a mystery, but it appears unlikely that the Heels will have their starting forward this weekend. In two NCAA Tournament games, Meeks scored 19 total points, however, it was his rebounding that allowed North Carolina to survive and advance.
His likely replacement will be Isaiah Hicks, who has seen his numbers increase as the season has progressed. UNC is thin in frontcourt depth since losing Desmond Hubert earlier in the year, and without Meeks it is hard to imagine this team getting past the Sweet 16. Wisconsin is a team that knows how to exploit matchups and a healthy Meeks is necessary to slow down the Badgers tenacious, inside-out game.
*Section Photo credit to USA Today Sports; Featured Photo credit (above) to Lance King, Getty Images