UNC Basketball: Is Kendall Marshall the Key to the Tar Heels' Title Hopes?

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IMarch 4, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC - MARCH 05:  Kendall Marshall #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates winning the ACC Regular Season Championship as they defeated the Duke Blue Devils 81-67 at the Dean E. Smith Center on March 5, 2011 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Kendall Marshall is known as one of the best set-up men in the country.

Most people who follow college basketball know that North Carolina's 6'4" point guard is No. 2 in the nation in assists (9.6 APG; 13 games with double-digit assists).

What we are all learning in the final weeks of the 2011-12 season is that Marshall is also a legitimate scoring threat.

Two times in the last five games, Marshall has put up 20 or more points—22 against NC State and 20 Saturday night at Duke.

In those two contests, Marshall hit 5-of-8 shots from beyond the arc and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. This raises the question: Will Kendall Marshall's emergence as another Carolina scoring threat be what paves the way for the Tar Heels to make a Final Four run?

Following last night's game, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said this about Marshall:

"I just think he is a terrific player, poised, confident, understands the levers of power on his team and when to use them. He is the ultimate point guard." http://www.tarheelblue.com/sports/m-baskbl/recaps/030312aac.html

Through most of the year, teams have backed off of guarding Kendall Marshall in terms of worrying about him as a scorer.

By doing so, they have tried to shut down UNC's dominant frontcourt of Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson.

But if Marshall is going to look for his shot more and be able to knock down threes and draw fouls, North Carolina's opponents won't be able to drop his man off to help inside.

It's hard to say whether or not Kendall Marshall is gaining the needed confidence to pull the trigger or if he has decided to become more aggressive as scorer.

Following last night's game, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said this about Marshall

Either way, if he keeps this up, Roy's Boys will be tough to stop as they enter March Madness 2012.