ST. LOUIS – It’s a riddle neither North Carolina nor Kansas finds funny.
Is it better for your star guard (the Tar Heels’ Kendall Marshall) to be injured and unable to play, or your star guard (the Jayhawks’ Tyshawn Taylor) to play so miserably that at times he would be better off riding the bench?
Either way, two heavyweights playing in the Midwest Regional final today are striking down the notion that sublime guard play is the key to NCAA tournament success.
“We were damn ugly, that’s what we were,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Saturday, given time to reflect on his team’s overtime escape against No. 13 seed Ohio the previous night.
“We were ugly because we didn’t have Kendall,” Williams added, “and hopefully, the one game under our belt will help us not be that ugly tomorrow.”
Coincidentally, Taylor also used that exact word – ugly – to describe his recent play.
The Jayhawks’ second-leading scorer was 2 for 14 from the field and committed five turnovers in a nip-and-tuck win over No. 11 seed North Carolina State on Friday night. He was 4 for 11 the previous round against Purdue, and is 0 for 12 from beyond the arc in the NCAA tournament.
“There’s no way I could do worse than I’ve done. I can’t. I can only go up from here,” the senior said, “and that’s good for me individually and us as a team, because offensively we haven’t been at our best. It’s a way to look at this thing as a positive.”
Good or bad, the Jayhawks know that Taylor will be running the show today.
That’s certainly not the case for the Tar Heels.
Marshall practiced a bit Saturday for the first time since fracturing his right wrist on a drive against Creighton last weekend, though it was only the walkthrough and shoot-around. He was also fitted with a brace that he would wear should he be cleared to play against Kansas.
Marshall had surgery Monday to install a screw and got his cast off Wednesday.