by Jacob Swiger
According to North Carolina head coach Roy Williams' Monday radio show, Tyler Zeller could potentially return to the lineup Wednesday against N.C. State.
"Right now I would not be surprised if Tyler [Zeller] did play Wednesday night against North Carolina State," Williams said.
"This is Tyler's decision," Williams added.
The full audio can be heard here.
For the Tar Heels, the timing of this announcement could not be much better. The Heels have raced out to two-game lead in the conference despite a depleted lineup due to the departures of Marcus Ginyard and Will Graves for the season and Carolina's recent struggle to score in the paint against Miami
Zeller instantly upgrades the rebounding and defensive presence in the middle, not to mention his offensive potential.
Zeller scored 18 points in his first outing as a Tar Heel against Penn on Nov. 15. In the next game against Kentucky, Zeller was fouled on a fast-break opportunity and his subsequent landing broke his wrist.
Perhaps most important is Zeller's contribution to the thinning roster.
Although the Tar Heels desperately need more depth on the wing, Zeller increases Carolina's rotation from eight to nine players and gives Carolina a fresh body in the paint at a point during the season when players start to wear down. The Tar Heels now sport four excellent post players -- Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, Tyler Hansbrough and Tyler Zeller.
It's unreasonable to expect Zeller to step right into the rotation and post the kind of numbers he did in his first game, but his presence could be the missing piece for this Tar Heel team that has struggled defensively and shown signs of fatigue while holding -- and losing -- leads late in games.
With Danny Green starting in place of Ginyard this season, the Tar Heels have lacked an offensive sixth man. Davis has shined coming off the bench and has provided excellent rebounding and an interior shot-blocker but not the kind of offensive spark that Green produced off the bench last season.
Too often when Hansbrough and Ty Lawson rest, the Tar Heels struggle to score. Zeller's return completes UNC's rotation by complementing the role players off the bench.
Williams maintains that he would not have allowed this return previously in his coaching career but said the fact that Zeller is a 7-footer and is unlikely to stay for five years given his NBA potential opened up the possibility.