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.

Knee injury temporarily sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.

Duke figuring out approach for this season

Duke University head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski speaks with the media about the Blue Devils' 2013-14 basketball season, Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Durham, N.C. (Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
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Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.

“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.

“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”

Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group.  Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.

As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.