What: NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Final
When: Sunday, March 25th, 5:05 PM
Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO
Records: UNC 32-5, Kansas 30-6
NCAA Results: UNC def. #16 Vermont, #8 Creighton, #13 Ohio; Kansas def. #15 Detroit, #10 Purdue, #11 NC State
Harrison Barnes bounce back game?
Even though Kendall Marshall went through non-contact portions of practice on Saturday, it is still not known if he will play or how effective he would be playing in pain with a brace on his wrist. As Marshall noted the biggest issues were with passing and catching the ball. If he can get to a point where he can do that effectively then there is a chance Marshall will see the floor some versus Kansas. Some Kendall Marshall might be enough to stabilize the offense.
Then there is Harrison Barnes who isn't injured(that we know of) but certainly played like it. Barnes' performance versus Ohio was as bad as it gets for him though to his credit he did make some crucial plays late. The good news is, Barnes usually follows up poor play in 1-2 game with a big game his next time out. Earlier in the season Barnes went a combined 8-24 and scored a total of 18 points in two games versus Appalachian State and Nicholls State. In the next game against Texas, Barnes scored 26 points and had 10 rebounds. After playing poorly versus Miami and Florida State, Barnes hit for 27 against Virginia Tech. Barnes scored 25 against Duke in Chapel Hill after being 9-27 in the previous two games. Barnes has three straight 20 point games to close the regular season after a seven point outing at Virginia then scored 23 versus FSU in the ACC Championship after a tough outing against NC State in the semifinals
The point? Barnes, like the team in general, responds very well to poor play in previous games. If we use season history as a guide, it stands to reason we will see a different Barnes than the one who showed up(or didn't show up depending on how you view it) against Ohio. Kansas is a really good on the defensive end which will serve to hamper Barnes and the whole team. If Marshall doesn't play, that could make the task tougher. However, for all the crap flung out Barnes for performances like Friday night, there are plenty of examples Barnes going Black Falcon mode to put his team in position to win a big game. This could be another one.
If Barnes plays well, it will be interesting to see if Reggie Bullock also continues to hit shots. Bullock has been playing really well in the NCAA Tournament. Bullock is 10-21 from three in three NCAA Tourney games and 8-15 versus Creighton and Ohio. Getting Barnes on track and Bullock continuing to hit shots that way puts UNC is a great position even if Marshall does not play. On the interior, this will be vastly differently from the Ohio game. Kansas has two very good big men and this game will see two of the premiere shot blockers in the country face off with Kansas' Jeff Withey and UNC's John Henson. It is unlikely they guard each other leaving Henson to check a slightly smaller but stronger Thomas Robinson. Tyler Zeller vs Jeff Withey will be interesting and how this game gets officiated will be key since neither team can afford to lose interior players.
Since UNC played poorly on Friday, the national media, if Marshall does not play, is in "write off" mode where UNC is concerned. Not that Kansas has been all that impressive but the value placed on Marshall is pretty high(as it should be.) In reality all UNC needs to play better than Friday is a locked and loaded Harrison Barnes going for 20+ in concert with the work Bullock and Zeller did. If that happens today, you have to like UNC's chances providing the Heels step up their defensive game. This is a matchup of the 4th and 9th ranked defensive teams in the country. Something tells me that will be a major factor in deciding this game.
UNC 66 Kansas 62