It looked like a fairly innocent tumble at first glance, but with the news of Kendall Marshall’s fractured right wrist, it is a fall that we will all be incredibly familiar with by next Friday’s regional semifinal of the NCAA Tournament between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Ohio Bobcats.
Whether or not Kendall Marshall will be able to play next week in St. Louis is still yet to be determined, but the initial prognosis isn’t good and the potential loss of Marshall looms large over the No. 1-seeded Tar Heels. The sophomore sensation put up sensational numbers in wins over Vermont and Creighton (29 points and 21 assists.)
Marshall plays the unquestioned role of facilitator to an explosive Carolina offense that was second in the nation this year in scoring. He was second in the nation this year in assists, and the injury leaves North Carolina with a potentially huge void in their backcourt.
The Tar Heels are already without Dexter Strickland, another guard and perhaps the best perimeter defender in the country. Now, with Marshall’s availability questionable, one of the prohibitive favorites to win the national championship looks like an entirely different team.
Seldomly used backup point guard Stilman White is now the only player on the Carolina roster with experience at the point guard position with Marshall possibly out. Another option to mask the Tar Heels lack of depth in their backcourt would be to play Harrison Barnes as somewhat of a point forward.
The talented sophomore and likely lottery pick certainly has the skill-set to play that sort of role, but he has primarily worked away from the ball offensively throughout his two years in Chapel Hill. However, the frontcourt depth in North Carolina may allow Barnes to work as the primary ball-handler without giving up too much length at the rim.
The Tar Heels would still be formidable without Marshall, as their successes this year have been based mostly on their length and athleticism. However, losing a player that creates for others would be a gigantic blow to North Carolina. The Tar Heels don’t have many players on their roster that can create their own shot off the dribble, and without Kendall Marshall, Carolina will be challenged offensively.
What seemed like a simple fall may have very well changed the entire complexion of the NCAA Tournament. Now the Tar Heels are faced with the prospects of losing their offensive catalyst at the most critical stage of their season.