Mama said there would be days like this.
If you watched Michigan State and Marquette last night you know the possibility of having a game like this exists for practically everyone. Take Kendall Marshall out of the lineup and there was the possibility UNC could struggle in adjusting to his absence. That was part of the problem as the offense was completely out of sorts and the Heels committed 24 turnovers. There is no way to underestimate Marshall's ability to dissect a defense and get the ball to the Tar Heel scorers. Marshall's recent offensive explosion also helps with the spacing. Without him out there, it was tough sledding to the point UNC was unable to even make an entry pass to Tyler Zeller despite Steve Kerr's incessant begging.
The other part of the problem was Harrison Barnes who ended up 3-for-16 from the floor and committed five turnovers including failing to get a shot off at the end of regulation off an isolation. I am not going to claim to know what the deal with Barnes. I do know the list of Tar Heel players who have played like utter crap in a crucial NCAA Tournament game is long and distinguished so we probably shouldn't act like this is the first. It is not a great look given what Barnes said about Doug Gottlieb during the week and the fact UNC needed someone to step up. Barnes came up short but the good news he tends to bounce back from bad games with really good ones. It will be interesting to see if that happens here.
As for the guys who did step up, Tyler Zeller and Reggie Bullock were absolutely outstanding in every sense of the word. Zeller was a beast and played like you expect your senior to play when he has zero interest in seeing his career end. His effort in this game was historical as Zeller became just the fourth player in the past 30 years of the NCAA Tournament to put up a 20-20 game with his 20 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks. Zeller probably could have done more damage in the scoring column but it became difficult to get him the ball. Also picking up the slack there was Bullock who put together a monster stat line: 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. This may have been his best game as a Tar Heel and coupled with how he played last week vs Creighton, Bullock has clearly decided to play big in March. Without these two, UNC would have been royally screwed.
John Henson had a quiet night going 6-12 and scoring 14 points. He also had 10 rebounds and a key blocked shot late in the game where he hustled down then waited for the attempted layup before blocking it cleanly for UNC to secure the ball. Stilman White had six assists and zero turnovers. He did not hurt the team which was the biggest requirement for him. The offense really missed Marshall because there are certain things White simply cannot give you or do. However his defense was solid and you got the impression he did everything he could to make it work.
In some ways this game could have been the "adjustment" game and the one win you shouldn't get in the NCAA Tournament but do anyway. If that is the case then a better Tar Heel team shows up on Sunday with a shot at the Final Four. Harrison Barnes will need to be better than he was in this one which is a statement of the obvious. Stilman White will find the Kansas guards to be a little better, especially on defense. That is if Marshall does not play but even if he does, effectiveness will be in question. It was clear UNC's play was killing Marshall and he wanted so badly to be out there. Does that drive him to return on Sunday?
We will see.