Dexter Strickland, John Henson, Harrison Barnes

Replacing Kendall Marshall is North Carolina’s toughest task

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Everyone loves the kind of high-flying, aerial displays that earn a player a spot on Sportscenter’s Top 10. Anyone can recognize when a sharpshooter catches fire and rains threes like Fabolous rains ones.

But, for true hoop heads, there may not be anything prettier than watching a point guard make a perfectly timed pass to a wing streaking up the floor or somehow finding his center alone under the rim for a dunk. In other words, a gorgeous pass is just as impressive as a poster dunk.

And that is what made Kendall Marshall so entertaining to watch.

The 2012 Cousy Award winner averaged nearly 10 assists as a sophomore, many of which were of the spectacular variety. What may have been more important — and what may end up being Marshall’s lasting legacy — is how much better he made North Carolina when he was on the court. Should I remind you of what North Carolina looked like when Marshall was playing behind Larry Drew as a freshman? Or what they looked like after he broke his wrist in the NCAA tournament?

I have a point here, I swear.

The Tar Heels have a lot of talent to replace as Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes are all headed for the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft, but no player will be more important to the Heels than Marshall’s replacement at the point.

Roy Williams will have a couple of options. For starters, there is freshman Marcus Paige, who is described by ESPN as a “smart, tough point guard” whose “ability to make plays for his team and score make him special.” Sounds like a guy that could fit in well running UNC’s transition attack.

But he’s also a freshman, and with the only other true point guard on the UNC roster being Gardner-Webb transfer — yes, that Gardner-Webb — Luke Davis, that means that Dexter Strickland and his hopefully-healthy knee will be all that much more important.

“I expect to play the point guard way more than I did last year,” Strickland said Thursday. “I still see myself as a combo guard. I think I’ll always be a slashing guard, so I think there’s more room to grow, and there’s never a time when I stop learning or stop developing my game as a 2-guard or a point guard. I need to focus on whatever it takes to help my team win.”

Strickland is a veteran player who knows UNC’s system, has played the point guard role before and doubles as the Tar Heel’s best perimeter defender. With the Heels spending next season in somewhat of a rebuilding year, his health is going to be a key to their success.

Because there may not be a more important player in the country than North Carolina’s point guard.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Kris Dunn vs. Denzel Valentine; Two 6-0 teams from Ohio battle in Orlando

Kris Dunn
AP Photo
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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Michigan State vs. Providence, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Two Player of the Year candidates lock horns on Sunday night as Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine battles Providence’s Kris Dunn. Both players are strong threats to record a triple-double each time they take the floor and both are key reasons why their teams are 6-0. The Friars could probably use this game a bit more than Michigan State since they enter this game unranked and could use another confidence-boosting win for a team filled with newer players. As for the Spartans, winning the Wooden Legacy would mean another great accomplishment before December even started for a team that has national title aspirations.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 23 Xavier vs. Dayton, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

These two 6-0 teams from Ohio will meet in Orlando in the championship game of the AdvoCare Invitational. The Musketeers have six different players averaging at least 9.7 points per game this season as they’ve received great balance on the offensive end. As for Dayton, Charles Cooke as emerged as a go-to player early this season while guard Scoochie Smith has also been outstanding. This will be the first time these two schools have played since Feb. 16, 2013.


  • One of the fun teams to watch this week has been Monmouth and their amusing end-of-bench antics. On the floor, the Hawks knocked off Notre Dame and gave Dayton a scare and they’ll face USC for the second time this season to close out the AdvoCare Invitational. The Trojans won the first one 101-90, but this is a 12:30 p.m. EST tip, so that could benefit Monmouth the second time around.
  • Wisconsin visiting No. 7 Oklahoma is an intriguing Sunday matchup. The Badgers could certainly use a true road win here as they’re off to a 4-2 start. The Sooners get more of a real test after only playing Memphis as a notable opponent their first three games.
  • Also going on in the AdvoCare Invitational is No. 20 Wichita State facing Iowa and No. 17 Notre Dame battling Alabama. The Shockers are going without senior starters Fred Van Vleet and Anton Grady as they try to escape Orlando with a win. Notre Dame is hoping to close out the event strong after its surprising upset to Monmouth.
  • Action also continues in Anaheim at the Wooden Legacy as No. 11 Arizona will take on Boise State, while Boston College plays Santa Clara and UC Irvine faces Evansville. Arizona will look to get back on the right track after the close loss to Providence in the semifinals.
  • No. 6 Duke gets an afternoon tilt with Utah State at home before they face Indiana during the week. It’ll be interesting to see if Blue Devil freshman wing Brandon Ingram keeps his strong play going from earlier in the week.
  • UCLA returns home and could badly use a win against Cal State Northridge. The Bruins went a disappointing 1-2 in the Maui Invitational and need to get back on the right track before the face No. 1 Kentucky next week.


  • Brown vs. No. 25 SMU, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)


  • Jackson State at Marquette, 12:30 p.m.
  • Rider at Rhode Island, 1:00 p.m.
  • Savannah State at South Florida, 1:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • South Carolina State at Kansas State, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Northern Colorado at Colorado, 2:00 p.m. (PAC12)
  • UC Santa Barbara at Arizona State, 4:00 p.m. (PAC12)

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics