UNC on Heels If Marshall Doesn't Come Back

        Without star point guard, North Carolina wasn't the same team that won the ACC and was very deserving of a top seed in the Midwest Region. Not even close. While replacement Stilman White wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination (2 points, 6 assists, 0 turnovers), he wasn't Kendall Marshall either. UNC advanced to the Elite 8 against a confident Ohio team, but Kansas is an entirely different monster. If they have plans to advance, better point guard play, whether it be a less-than-healthy Marshall or a career-performance from White, is needed.

        The North Carolina offense was stagnant most of the night, missing the playmaking of Marshall- his ability to get into the lane almost at will, draw the defense, dump it down to future-lottery picks John Henson and Tyler Zeller for a dunk or kick it out to the perimeter to Harrison Barnes or Reggie Bullock.

        Barnes was woeful and looked lost most of the night- scoring 5 of his 12 points in the overtime, thus boosting the overall outlook of his game. Without Marshall, Barnes had to create his own shot, which, for most of the night, was a long 18-to-20 foot contested jump shot. Out of the entire Tar Heel lineup, Barnes was the one that missed the perfect pass that Marshall so often delivered to him; the result was a 3-for-16 shooting night, including 2-for-9 from 3-point range and five turnovers. His ball-fake or one-dribble-pull-up failed him time-after-time.

        Reggie Bullock on the other hand, gave North Carolina the perimeter spark it needed- hitting 5-of-10 3-point attempts and doubling as the lockdown defender that matched up with Ohio playmaker D.J. Cooper on the other end. Without his masterful 17-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist performance, UNC would have been on a plane home right now.

        But in perhaps the most underrated performance of the Tournament thus far, Tyler Zeller, the No. 11 player on our Big Board, led the team with 20 points and 22 rebounds before fouling out. This was without the playmaking of Marshall mind you, where Zeller was quietly dominating on the blocks. He gathered 8 offensive rebounds for 9 second-chance points (three put-backs, 3-of-4 from the foul line) as he took advantage of Ohio's lack of size inside.

        Roy Williams must get the ball inside more often in the Elite Eight, specifically to Zeller, but Henson isn't a bad second-option either. Henson knocked down a few mid-range jumpers with his newly developed perimeter game, which should be effective as he draws Kansas' Thomas Robinson or Jeff Withey away from the rim. Zeller's bullish play inside will be crucial in getting those two in foul trouble and thus, creating an advantage against the Jayhawks.

        But it all comes back to the play of the point guard. Kansas has two high-energy, yet inconsistent players in the backcourt, capable of scorching the Tar Heels if they play as they did against Ohio. Adjustments by Williams and Co. or a sudden change in health of Marshall will be watched closely moving through the weekend.

By President - Corey Ruff - 3-24-12