The most indispensable player to North Carolina's national title hopes may be unavailable for the rest of the NCAA tournament.
Kendall Marshall, North Carolina's starting point guard, suffered fractured right wrist driving to the rim late in the Tar Heels' round of 32 victory over Creighton on Sunday. North Carolina is officially listing his status for the rest of the NCAA tournament as "unknown," which suggests the school hasn't yet ruled out Marshall trying to play through the injury since it is his non-shooting wrist that's hurt.
"Kendall has a fractured wrist and that's all I can tell you," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. " We don't know. He's got a fracture of the scaphoid bone of the right wrist. And you can ask any question you want, but I just told you all we know. We do not know anything else. So be intelligent and don't ask. We'll speak to the hand specialist tonight with Kendall and his family and we'll see what happens after that."
If Marshall is done for the season or plays at far less than full strength, it's very difficult to envision North Carolina even challenging for a national championship.
North Carolina's other primary ball handler, Dexter Strickland, suffered a season-ending right knee injury against Virginia Tech in January, as did combo guard Leslie McDonald during the summer. That leaves seldom-used reserve Stillman White as the only other player with experience at point guard on the roster.
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White has done a serviceable job spelling Marshall for a few minutes per half in Strickland's absence, but it's difficult to envision North Carolina playing him 30 minutes per game the rest of the tournament. Instead what the Tar Heels may have to have either small forward Harrison Barnes or shooting guard Reggie Bullock handle the ball more frequently and play out of position.
Marshall, one of the nation's top point guards, did not leave the game after suffering the injury on Sunday, scoring 18 points and dishing out 11 assists in 36 minutes. The only sign of injury he showed was that he shook hands with Creighton players left-handed after the game to protect the wrist.
"He's starting to look for his shot a little bit more because it's going in more," Williams said. "Earlier in the season, he didn't look for it as much because when he shot it it wasn't going in. You can look at the stats through the first 15 games and then through 25 games and then through 36 games, and you'll see that as the season has continued along, his shot has gone in more often and more often and his percentages have just continued to rise."
North Carolina now has four days to prepare for the winner of Sunday night's matchup between 13th-seeded Ohio and 12th-seeded South Florida. If the Tar Heels get through that, they would meet either second-seeded Kansas, Purdue or North Carolina State for a berth in the Final Four.
Future matchups were the furthest thing from Williams' mind, however, as he left Greensboro on Sunday.
Said Williams, "When you go to the Sweet 16, it's supposed to be a lot more fun than this."
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