North Carolina’s younger than any team remaining in the NCAA tournament, can hit shooting slumps and can be prone to mental errors.
Maybe that should be expected of a team that’s relying on two freshmen, three sophomores and two juniors in the rotation. Not that it worries coach Roy Williams too much. He’s seen the Heels (28-7) progress from a decent start to a great finish.
Call it confidence, call it talent. Call it whatever you want. It’s working.
“Whatever ‘it’ is, they’ve got it,” Williams told the Raleigh News & Observer. “They can raise their level of concentration. They can focus, and not be discouraged by one bad play. We’ve talked all year long about next play, next play … the more you practice it, it gives them confidence. The more confidence you have, the more success they have. The more success they have, the more confidence they have. So it’s a little bit of that chicken-and-egg thing.”
Maybe it’s the maturity of guys like Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall. They’re freshmen, but they’ve hit their rough patches, worked through them and are ready for more. After 35 games, they’re hardly the usual freshmen.
Marshall’s insertion into the starting lineup has been well covered, but it’s worth noting again that UNC is 16-2 with him running the show. It was 12-5 before.
His cool is just one of the reasons why the Heels are 7-0 since Jan. 26 in game decided by three points or less. The latest was last Sunday’s 86-83 win over Washington.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Were you nervous? It was such a tight game,'” Marshall told the paper. “But we feel like it’s just another game. … We’re confident.”
That confidence is essential to a Final Four run, but it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out against Marquette. The Golden Eagles have spent their season playing in close games. They don’t lack for confidence either.
Tip-off is 7:15 p.m. ET.
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