NCAA Tournament 2012: UNC Prepares for Kansas Without Kendall Marshall
Kendall Marshall's wrist injury has been another devastating setback for the North Carolina Tar Heels— for the point guard has been dubbed the leader and creative force of the UNC basketball team.
During this season, Marshall has averaged nearly 10 assists per game and has proven to be a significant scoring threat. As the UNC record holder for assists during a season, he has been involved in almost half of the points accumulated this season.
The Tar Heels' performance suffers without Marshall's presence on the court, and the team barely scraped by 13th seeded Ohio in overtime.
This game would certainly have been a blowout for UNC if they were at full strength, but injuries have plagued the season.
Shooting guard Leslie McDonald suffered an ACL injury before the season even began. Junior guard Dexter Strickland tore his ACL halfway through the season.
And John Henson injured his wrist during the ACC tournament. Although Henson returned, Kendall Marshall soon took his place as the latest injured Tar Heel.
All is not lost, however. North Carolina would not have achieved the No. 1 seeding without any depth. If the Tar Heels plan to defeat Kansas, here's a few things that must happen.
Harrison Barnes Has to Show Up
The All-American was the leading scorer for North Carolina this season, but struggled against Ohio on Friday.
Barnes made three of 16 field goals, finished with 12 points and allowed several costly turnovers.
However, he found his range in overtime and drained five points to help UNC edge out Ohio in the most exciting game of the NCAA tournament thus far.
If he performs at his best, he is capable of scoring 40 points like he did in last year's ACC tournament against Clemson. Harrison Barnes cannot be contained when he gets hot.
Reggie Bullock Stays Hot Beyond the Arc
Reggie Bullock was one of Carolina's standout players on Friday.
He scored 17 points including several clutch three-pointers that helped the Tar Heels draw level and subsequently pull ahead.
Without Kendall Marshall, Dexter Strickland or Leslie McDonald, Bullock is one of the few remaining scholarship guards. But if he continues his hot steak, UNC can beat the Jayhawks beyond the arc.
UNC Makes Their Foul Shots
With two guards injured and Marshall potentially sidelined, UNC will need to take the ball down low to their forwards.
Tyler Zeller has been a consistent foul shooter all season; however, John Henson struggles from the line.
If the game is close, it may be decided in the final minutes by free throws. In this case, the Tar Heels must be consistent from the line to avoid going home early.
The Tar Heels Play Strong Defense
With Kendall Marshall, the Tar Heels average 82 points per game.
Last night, they managed 73 against Ohio.
Kansas has not been as offensively dominant as Carolina, but averages 74 points per game. If Marshall does not play, UNC will lack its offensive mastermind—forcing the team pick up the slack on the defensive end of the court.
John Henson is the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and he will need to display his shot-blocking prowess against Kansas.
The Tar Heels had 24 turnovers against Ohio on Friday.
A better team would have capitalized on UNC's mistakes—and Ohio paid the price.
Kansas will not be as forgiving.
Tyler Zeller Plays Phenomenal
Tyler Zeller was the ACC Player of the Year and his jersey will someday hang from the rafters of the Smith Center.
This season, he has been Carolina's most consistent player. Zeller scored 20 points and collected 22 rebounds in the sweet sixteen win against Ohio.
If UNC tops Kansas, Tyler Zeller will be a big reason why.