CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina Tar Heels came into the season as the overwhelming favorite to win the national championship largely because of depth. The top-ranked Tar Heels are putting it to the test early.
Coach Roy Williams said Friday that senior Bobby Frasor might miss Saturday's opener against Penn, another key injury for a team that will likely be without reigning national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough and top defender Marcus Ginyard.
Frasor sprained his left ankle Monday and hadn't practiced since, hobbling the veteran who can play either guard position and brings leadership off the bench.
The Tar Heels -- who return their top six scorers from a team that won a school-record 36 games and reached the Final Four -- entered the preseason hoping to speed up their already fast-paced offense.
Instead, Williams is adjusting his lineup and rotation to account for the potential loss of his top three defenders.
"Needless to say, it's a big area of concern for me," Williams said. "But it's what it is. I can't slap my hands together like Mr. Miyagi and make them well. We just have to be able to go through it."
Earlier this week, Williams said Hansbrough was "extremely doubtful" to play as he recovers from a stress reaction in his right shin, an injury that can be a precursor to a stress fracture without proper rest. Hansbrough hasn't practiced in more than two weeks, and has been limited to working out in a swimming pool, lifting weights and even punching a heavy bag for conditioning.
Williams said team doctors examined Hansbrough twice in the past week. Hansbrough also had an MRI exam on Wednesday, but Williams didn't not say what the results were.
"We're trying to be very conservative," he said. "That's the bottom line, and when you have something like this, there's no true formula to go by."
Ginyard is expected to be out until December after having surgery on his left foot. Danny Green, a fellow senior and last year's sixth man, filled Ginyard's spot in the starting lineup for the exhibition win against North Carolina-Pembroke. Williams wouldn't say which freshman -- 7-foot Tyler Zeller or 6-10 Ed Davis -- would start in Hansbrough's place alongside Green, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Deon Thompson against the Quakers.
Zeller started against UNC-Pembroke, finishing with 13 points.
"We understand what it takes," Ellington said. "That's something we had to explain to the freshmen. When guys go down, you have to raise your play. We just feel like we're at the point where we have enough guys that have more than enough experience and know what coach wants from us."
North Carolina won't have much time to find a Hansbrough-less rhythm. The Tar Heels host Kentucky on Tuesday, then stop at UC Santa Barbara on the way to the Maui Invitational. It's unclear whether Hansbrough will be back for any of those games.
"There's no good time [for injuries]," Williams said. "But if it happens during the season, at least you've gone through the whole preseason and got your stuff in. It has been more difficult. Everybody's got to step up."