On Friday night, the top seed in the Midwest Regional, the North Carolina Tar Heels, needed overtime to spoil the upset bid of the 13th-seeded Ohio Bearcats, 73-65.
They were fortunate to advance to the Elite Eight, as they played the regional semifinal contest without their star point guard Kendall Marshall, who fractured his right wrist against Creighton last weekend.
His presence was missing on the floor, as Marshall would have added another dimension to North Carolina’s offensive attack. His ball-handling ability was sorely missed; Harrison Barnes had trouble all evening dribbling the basketball through the opponent’s double-teams. When he’s in the lineup, Marshall is the Tar Heels main catalyst.
The thought of playing Carolina in a NCAA Tournament game isn’t a pleasant feeling. Even if they’re not playing with a full roster, this win will be well earned by the Kansas Jayhawks. But, that goes for any win captured in March.
When Kansas dismantled Baylor 92-74 on Jan. 16, the Jayhawks gave you the impression that they would play far into the tournament. At times, Kansas appears to have the best team in the nation, as far as in terms of total makeup with Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey dominating the paint and Tyshawn Taylor scoring from the outside.
If Marshall cannot play on Sunday, then it will hard for the Tar Heels to defeat the Jayhawks. They will need to cut down on careless turnovers, as the ball-handling was hesitant and often became unraveled under pressure. If Stillman White starts again at point guard, Kansas will leave him alone at the top of the key and collapse their defense into the paint.
North Carolina couldn’t dominant the lane against an undersized Ohio squad. Tyler Zeller’s offensive numbers (20 points and 23 rebounds) might look good on a stat sheet but not on the court. They out-rebounded the Bearcats by 33 boards, and still nearly lost to them on Friday night. Carolina cannot expect the same results against a tougher Kansas team.
Harrison Barnes has been playing in a fog all tournament long, as his poor shooting and shot selection could be the difference in them losing to the Jayhawks. Barnes can play much better than he has shown in this year’s tournament thus far.
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams implored his squad to elevate their game due to the absence of Marshall in the lineup. For the Tar Heels to advance, their star players must pick up their play.