By Jon Rothstein
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FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IF NORTH CAROLINA PLAYS WITHOUT KENDALL MARSHALL
1. THE POWER GAME
The Tarheels are the best transition team in college basketball — with Marshall running the point. Without him, they’ll need to focus on maximizing their greatest strength and that’s their size. With Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller on their front line, North Carolina has the ability to overpower people on the low blocks and on the backboards. Without Marshall to generate easy baskets, look for Roy Williams to pound the ball into the paint.
2. A SPLASH OF ZONE
Against Creighton, North Carolina only had seven players in double figure minutes and one of them was Marshall. If he’s unavailable for the Tarheels’ Sweet 16 showdown with upstart Ohio, look for Williams to potentially mix in some zone defenses to keep some of his defenders fresh. It’s not a common thing for Williams to rely on a zone but with a shortage of healthy bodies, he may have to.
3. QUICK OUTLETS
Without Marshall directing traffic in the middle of their secondary break, you’re going to see some of the Tarheels’ wings, most notably Barnes and Reggie Bullock frequently bring up the ball. Look for Zeller, Henson, and James Michael-McAdoo to look to outlet the ball even quicker than usual in hopes of getting easy baskets. If they don’t have the services of Marshall, many of the shots North Carolina will attempt will be at a lower percentage.
4. BET ON BARNES
He maybe hasn’t lived up to the unrealistic expectations he came to Chapel Hill with but there is no time like the present for the Tarheels’ small forward. A match up nightmare with good size and an underrated in between game, Barnes now will be even more of a focus in North Carolina’s offense because has the ability to do what others around him cannot — create his own scoring opportunities.
5. WATCH FOR WATTS
Williams said on Sunday night that if he didn’t have Marshall, Justin Watts and Stilman White would be North Carolina’s primary ball handlers. While White is limited as an athlete, Watts could have an impact on the game. Although he’s not a fluid creator, Watts would be a candidate to be a glue guy on any other ACC team if he wasn’t playing in Chapel Hill. Think former UNC wing Marcus Ginyard.
HARKLESS MAKES IT OFFCIAL:
He is projected to be a first round selection.
Even though he was the Red Storm’s most productive player this past season, Harkless’ role should be easily filled by incoming forward Jakarr Sampson, whom many have compared to current Washington Wizards rookie Chris Singleton.