Marshall’s absence raises the question: Who is Stilman White?

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OK, so the odds of North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall playing vs. Ohio are roughly the same as you posting a perfect bracket. Without him running the show, the Midwest’s No. 1 seed should be OK against the 13th-seeded Bobcats, even with Stilman White likely getting the start.

Which raises the question: Who the heck is Stilman White?

Here’s how UNC coach Roy Williams described him on Thursday.

“He’s really a nice kid,” Williams said. “I mean, he’s a little wacko now. … I mean, no, he’s a lot wacko. But he’s really a good kid. And we have enjoyed the dickens out of him.

“Stilman is like a little colt running around out there. Kendall thinks three plays ahead. Stilman’s still trying to think [whether] he’s got both shoes tied. … But Stilman’s got a little toughness to him. I mean, he really does. Like I say, he’s wacko and maybe it’s the wacko to the extent that he doesn’t realize it, but I like the toughness. He’s willing to try to make plays. I don’t worry any more about Stilman tomorrow than I would if he was going to play two minutes. Because he’s still wacko. …

“We have thrown him out there a couple of minutes in some big games and he’s done fine. And he comes back over to the bench and just sort of sits down and he’s got this little grin on his face, and somebody will say, ‘Good job.’ And he will say, ‘What did I do?’ ”

Ah. Sounds like the perfect player to throw out there with a trip to the regional finals on the line.

Williams was undoubtedly keeping things light, trying to take some of the spotlight off Marshall, the Heels who plays more minutes than anyone else on the roster and is second in the nation in assists. He’s also trying to ease expectations on White, a 6-foot 160-pound true freshman from Wilmington, N.C., who rarely steps on the court. White’s played 136 minutes in 32 games this season, which is what Marshall totals in four games.

But he’s been preparing for this possibility ever since junior Dexter Strickland tore his ACL in January and became Marshall’s only real backup.

“It’s something in practice you’ve got to prepare for, always prepare as if I’m going to be playing a lot of minutes,” White said. “It definitely helps to go through the ACC season, playing in that competition. … Also, in practice, I’ve gotten to go up against the best point guard in the country.”

White will get the start, but don’t expect him to play a ton of minutes. Senior Justin Watts isn’t a natural point guard, but he’s a much better defender than White, which’ll come in handy against guard-heavy Ohio. If either D.J. Cooper or Walter Offutt heat up, Watts will be the guy guarding them.

Besides, no matter who’s running the offense, the goal remains the same: get it to the big guys. Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes – all future lottery picks – should have huge games.

“Whether I’m playing or not, it’s not going to matter. Carolina basketball is still going to go on,” Marshall said. “They can be successful without me.”

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)