Within minutes, North Carolina’s locker room in Greensboro went from elation to absolute despondency. It was really something. All eyes were on Kendall Marshall, his wrist reddened from the ice. His eyes were redder.
There were no smiles, no jokes, and it seemed, no hope.
“It was a terrible bus ride back,” coach Roy Williams said. “It was as quiet as it could be.”
The top-seeded Tar Heels emerged from that locker room on Sunday with renewed vigor, even if some believe it doesn’t matter.
“Overnight we just got counted out of the race for the national championship,” UNC forward Harrison Barnes said. “People are telling us, you know, (like ESPN analyst) Doug Gottlieb, that we’re going to go back to Chapel Hill and not go to New Orleans. Nah, we’ll just keep going.”
Without Marshall, advancing will be difficult, and that’s what UNC is preparing for. Williams said 100 percent of his team’s preparation will be to play against Ohio without Marshall. The Tar Heels will likely be forced to change its in-game strategy without the second-team All-ACC point guard.
UNC forward Tyler Zeller said the Tar Heels, and maybe he most of all, will miss Marshall’s quick transition passes if the point guard can’t play.
But he thinks a short-handed UNC is still good enough to win.
“I just think you have to make sure you look at what we have instead of what we’re losing,” Zeller said.