Commentary

UNC not sunk without Marshall

Matchups and defensive prowess can carry Tar Heels

Updated: March 19, 2012, 1:17 PM ET
By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider
Creighton vs. UNCBob Donnan/US PresswireThe Tar Heels have the talent to rally around their injured point guard.

The news that Kendall Marshall had broken a bone in his right wrist in North Carolina's 87-73 win over Creighton yesterday went out at 7:59 ET Sunday night, and the magnitude of the event was so big there was no time to worry about correct spelling.

As you might expect, the reaction was instantaneous, loud and close to unanimous. Losing Marshall would be "huge." Without him, the conventional wisdom holds that the Tar Heels' chances of winning a national championship are very slim. And, by "conventional wisdom," I mean that, if anything, it's North Carolina fans who are saying this event effectively kills their team's hopes of cutting down the nets in New Orleans.

Would losing Marshall be huge? Of course. On Sunday against the Creighton Bluejays the sophomore scored 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting and dished the ball for 11 assists. Unless you happen to have Damian Lillard on your bench, you're probably not going to be able to replace a performer like that without seeing some drop-off on offense.

True, the last time I wrote about the wrist injury of an indispensable North Carolina star, the young man in question, John Henson, ended up playing after all. But, although it's still early in this story and we've seen Willis Reed-brand surprises before, an injury to a point guard's off hand may well prove to be even more inconvenient than an injury to a big man's dominant hand. Marshall kept playing after he suffered the injury Sunday, and, when he was asked after the game when his wrist hurt the most, he replied, "Any time I tried to dribble with my right hand." At the risk of stating the obvious, a point guard needs to be able to engage in that particular activity.

So, for our purposes here, I'm simply going to assume Marshall is gone, period. Make that assumption, and it's a matter of just how huge Marshall's absence might prove to be. Here are my thoughts.