After North Carolina's 73-65 overtime win against Ohio, the debate over whether Kendall Marshall is really integral to the Tar Heels should be completely quelled. Marshall, out with a fractured wrist, could only cheer on the Carolina bench as he watched his team's offense sputter its way to complete dysfunction down the stretch of regulation and into the extended session.
With all due respect to freshman fill-in Stilman White, he isn't a shade of Marshall, who at his best runs his offense with the same precision of a highly trained Navy Seal. Marshall doesn't just excel on the fast break -- sure he does plenty of that -- but he is a magician in the half-court, perfectly attacking gaps and knowing exactly when to dish off pick-and-roll.
With Marshall unable to go, Harrison Barnes -- Carolina's primary source of offense --found himself in a bevy of isolation situations, forced to try and bail out one poor possession after another. On the game, he was held to just 12 points on a mere 3-16 shooting. The normally ball-secure Barnes also turned it over an uncharacteristic five times.
Undoubtedly, this should be the main concern for Roy Williams and this team.
White was actually very serviceable. He didn't have a single turnover and dished out an impressive six assists. But unlike Marshall, he was unable to penetrate the lane and remained completely nonexistent as an offensive threat.
However, with White failing to consistently control tempo and in part because of the rickety Justin Watts at the helm for extended stretches, the Heels were ultimately forced into a season-high 24 turnovers and shot just 40 percent from the floor, down from the 46 percent average on the year.
While John Henson and Tyler Zeller -- the two stellar bigs -- managed to remain highly effective on the glass, at the high post and on the block, Barnes found himself coerced out of his comfort zone, which normally exists from 18 feet and in. With Marshall out, he was in turn forced to become the chief creator for a Heels team that is severely lacking in penetrators.
Barnes is a projected lottery pick because of his pro-style game that relies on one and two dribble pull-ups with the occasional three. His 44 percent shooting off of cuts -- per Synergy Sports Technology -- suggests that is far from a finished product in terms of moving without the ball. While an effective isolation player in spurts, he would prefer to score within the offensive flow. In other words, having a master facilitator like Marshall at his disposal is central to his scoring.
Whether the Heels play upstart N.C. State or highly touted Kansas in the Elite Eight, missing Marshall is a dramatic blow for perhaps college basketball's most talented team not named Kentucky.
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