The prevailing storyline this weekend in St. Louis was what No. 1 seed North Carolina would do without the services of point guard Kendall Marshall.
To account for the loss of one of the nation’s best point guards is tough to say the least, and for 76 minutes of action at the Edward Jones Dome the Tar Heels were able to get through with their Final Four hopes intact.
But it’s those final four minutes that will haunt Tar Heel fans throughout the off-season, as many will wonder what could have been with a healthy Marshall on the floor.
Stilman White received the bulk of the attention since he moved into the starting role, and while some will point to his two shot attempts down the stretch it’s important to point out that the freshman dished out seven assists without a turnover against Kansas.
The problem: there didn’t seem to be anyone willing to take the big shot the Tar Heels needed as Kansas pulled away. The end result: an 80-67 loss for Roy Williams’ team.
Harrison Barnes shot 5 of 14 from the field, finishing with 13 points to cap a weekend that ended with many wondering how far his NBA Draft stock would drop after two sub-par performances.
Barnes’ free throw with 3:58 remaining cut the Kansas lead to 68-67, but that would be the last point scored by North Carolina and he would miss all three of his shot attempts in crunch time.
North Carolina was also able to call on big men John Henson and Tyler Zeller throughout the season but they were neutralized by Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey, combining for 25 points and ten rebounds.
Robinson and Withey combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds, and when combined with Tyshawn Taylor snapping out of his slump that proved to be too much for UNC to overcome.
Marshall’s impact could be seen in how much UNC struggled to create quality looks against a Kansas defense that improved greatly in the second half. The Jayhawks limited UNC to 20 points (22.6% FG), and for the game the Tar Heels made 2 of 17 from beyond the arc.
Without Marshall, North Carolina struggled due in large part to the lack of players who can go out and create their own offense. Unlike Ohio, Kansas had the players needed to not only expose that but finish the job as well.