#1 North Carolina Tarheels vs. #2 Kansas Jayhawks -2

#1 North Carolina Tarheels vs. #2 Kansas Jayhawks -2  — Midwest Regional Final

You think Roy Williams has a tough time going against his former team of fifteen years, the Kansas Jayhawks?  Try coming up with a definitive pick for the outcome of this game while media outlets still conflict in their definiteness of Kendall Marshall’s absence.  The majority seem to think the sophomore catalyst will not play today, but a few places, including Carolina’s website themselves, have not fully closed the door on a Willis Reed-like glorious heroic return.

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Mums the word, and unfortunately, it makes it a little difficult to write a perfectly intelligent column.  We are prefect so far in the Elite 8 round, and have no qualms risking that mark on Kentucky rolling.  But picking Carolina before knowing if Kendall Marshall is suiting up seems a little foolish.

So here is my official pick.  WAIT until Marshall’s status is determined before placing your bet!  I am really, really surprised the line is even UP for this game and was nearly immediately after Kansas squeeked past NC State, but I suppose the action this time of the year is too great to take it off the board.  If this were a regular season game, Vegas would have been much, much more patient in installing Kansas as a slim 2-point favorite.

Let’s analyze this one the best we can.  With Kendall Marshall at even 75% UNC getting points is highway robbery.  I think we all know that.  So let’s assume, since KU is the favorite, and since Roy Williams and UNC is no likely to jeopardize a kids’ sparkling bright future if he’s not quite ready (which is seems hard to believe he would be), let’s assume Marshall sits.  With him on the bench against Ohio they committed a staggering 24 turnovers.  They average around 11 on the season.

Ohio is not the best defensive team they faced, so you do the math.  They couldn’t initiate their offense, and if Roy Williams is half the coach most assume him to be, they have gone back to the drawing board this weekend and have a better solution than “play Stilman White.”  That was a bad idea.   Having him defensively isolated on Ohio’s best perimeter scorer in a two point game with 45 seconds to play was so stunning I half expected them to temporarily remove Roy from the Hall of Fame… jaw-droppingly BAD coaching… wow.

Kansas is somewhat fortunate to be alive in this tournament, but could very well find themselves in the Final Four.  Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson has been solid, but the real story of last round was the ten blocked shots by Jeff Withey.  No one is going to mistake Withey for Anthony Davis or Dieng at Louisville, but Withey has been equally effective in the Tournament, using intelligence and great positioning over athleticism to block shots (and keep them inbounds as old-school basketball heads everywhere rejoice!  My Dad LOVES this guy…)

If Withey can make things difficult for Zeller tonight, and I think he can, the fact that Carolina is having fits even initiating their offense becomes even more magnified.  If Zeller hadn’t bailed them out with his 20-20 masterpiece, Carolina suffers one of the most surprising losses in NCAA Tournament history.

I love this Carolina team, and still think they are the only team talented enough to matchup with Kentucky.  But not without Kendall Marshall.  He has proven to truly be THAT important to the Tarheels success.  With him not playing (likely, but again check before betting), I just don’t see them being able to get past a good Kansas team.  Expect Tyshawn Taylor to be huge in Marshall’s absence (you can’t seriously even consider putting Stilman on him, right?  Right, Roy??)

I like Kansas laying the two points, with the obvious ‘wait and see Marshall’s status’ caveat.

Free Pick:  Kansas Jayhawks -2 (click to bet)


Chris Scheeren / Author