John Henson returned to the lineup, grabbing rebounds and soaring for blocked shots, solidifying North Carolina's championship hopes once again. But now sophomore point guard has a wrist injury of his own that could derail the Tar Heels Final Four chances; Marshall broke a bone in his right wrist in the win over Creighton this weekend, but remained in the game for several more minutes before heading back to the locker room.
North Carolina's backcourt depth has already been compromised several times this year- sixth man Leslie McDonald tore his ACL back in July and fellow Tar Heel guard, Dexter Strickland, a starter, tore his ACL in mid-January, leaving Kendall Marshall to play more than 35 minutes a game since then. Now, Marshall will likely stint his wrist and manage to play through the pain, but how effective will he be?
Marshall only led the nation in total assists this season, ranking second in assist-to-turnover ratio and topped the ACC in plus/minus. His impact of the game is undeniable, in fact, we are willing to call him the one of the two or three most irreplaceable players in the country. He controls the game with such precision, threads passes to ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller and John Henson for easy buckets, draws the defense and kicks it out better than any other guard and gets out and leads the break better than any other as well. North Carolina's 73 possessions per game make them one of the fastest teams in the country with Marshall controlling most of those transition opportunities.
If Marshall feels too much pain in his right hand to play or is simply ineffective when he is in, what kind of replacement player will Justin Watts be? Can Stillman White fill in? Maybe in the short term and that's being extremely optimistic. If Marshall cannot go, UNC's title hopes shrink from one of the two favorites to marginal candidate.