UNC, the latest to deal with a significant injury, needs Joel Berry to recover quickly

The last time we saw Joel Berry he was standing in his white North Carolina jersey, black hat turned backwards, net hanging around his neck, basking in the glory of being named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2017 Final Four. The next time we see Joel Berry he'll be on UNC's bench, in street clothes, watching his teammates start the season without him.

That's the result of a broken hand.

And it really has been a wild month for the Tar Heels.

First, North Carolina learned two Fridays ago that the NCAA will not punish it despite the fact that basketball players, many of whom helped UNC win national titles, benefitted from bogus classes for more than a decade. That was terrific news for the school because it means those banners will continue to hang. But now North Carolina has learned that its most experienced and best player, a possible preseason First Team All-American, is out for the foreseeable future. And that's terrible news for the school because it means the top five scorers from last season's championship-winning team are either gone or unavailable to start this season.

So how long will that be the case?

Obviously, it's unclear. But UNC described Berry on Monday as someone who will "miss approximately four weeks due to a broken bone in his right hand." The calendar shows that four weeks from that announcement is Nov. 20, which is when the Tar Heels are scheduled to play at Stanford in what will be their third game of the season. In other words, it's safe to assume Berry will at least miss UNC's first two games against Northern Iowa and Bucknell, and possibly the Stanford game too. So the real question is whether he'll be back in time for the PK80-Phil Knight Invitational that begins Nov. 23 in Portland. Because though the Tar Heels can probably/maybe beat Portland in the quarterfinals, and either Arkansas or Oklahoma in the semifinals, without him, a championship-game appearance would likely come against a Michigan State team that's fourth in the CBS Sports preseason Top 25 (and one).

UNC isn't winning that one without Joel Berry.

So get well soon, young man.

And, really, that previous thought -- get well soon, young man -- could be directed at any number of relevant players right now because college basketball, just like the NBA, is already dealing with injuries on prominent teams. Arizona is currently without Rawle Alkins. Wichita State is currently without Landry Shamet and Markis McDuffie. Kentucky is currently without Jarred Vanderbilt. Florida is currently without John Egbunu. And now North Carolina is set to start the season without Joel Berry.

Injuries on top of injuries on top of injuries.

That's five top-15 teams that'll begin the season short-handed.

In fairness, I suppose, things could be worse -- like last preseason when nearly all of Duke's heralded recruiting class was hurt. But that reality doesn't make these developments any less-awful for Arizona, Wichita State, Kentucky, Florida or North Carolina. Those programs have each been dealt unfortunate circumstances in this offseason/preseason. They're not insurmountable situations, obviously. But they're not ideal, either.

CBS Sports Insider

Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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