NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview: Midwest Region
Top Dog — North Carolina (1)
After getting shot-swatting forward John Henson back from a wrist injury suffered in the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels suffered an even worse blow when ambidextrous assist man Kendall Marshall went down with a wrist injury of his own in the Round of 32 against overmatched Creighton. Fortunately, two-time national champion coach Roy Williams has one of the deepest rosters in the land. Harrison Barnes (17 points, five rebounds) was outscored and outrebounded by his Ames (Iowa) High School teammate, Creighton's Doug McDermott (20 points, nine rebounds), in their head-to-head reunion. The superb sophomore will be counted on to raise his game to another level, as will senior center Tyler Zeller, if the Tar Heels have any hopes of reaching the Final Four in New Orleans without a full strength effort from either Marshall or Henson.
Underdog – Ohio (13)
The Bobcats are moving on to their first Sweet 16 in school history after emotional wins over No. 4 seed Michigan, 65-60, and No. 12 "First Four" play-in South Florida, 62-56. Ohio hit 9-of-18 from 3-point range against USF after going 15-of-17 from the free throw line against the Maize and Blue. A combination of both hot streaks might be necessary in order to pull off an upset of heavily favored North Carolina in St. Louis.
Player to Watch – Lorenzo Brown, NC State (11)
The Wolfpack guard has been a statsheet stuffer in upset wins over San Diego State (6) and Georgetown (3). The 6'5" sophomore averaged 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.5 steals over his first two games in the Dance. There was little Brown could not do for NC State when it mattered most against the Hoyas, as the clutch playmaker hit three crucial free throws in the final 10.6 seconds of a thrilling 66-63 victory.
Injury Update – Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (1)
First Syracuse's Fab Melo and now UNC's Kendall Marshall; Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Michigan State's Draymond Green better watch out, because the most indispensable players on the No. 1 seeds in this year's NCAA Tournament are dropping like flies. While Melo is done, Marshall is holding out hope after breaking a bone in his right (non-shooting) wrist. The pass-first sophomore point guard is the conductor of Carolina's offensive orchestra. NBA Lottery talents Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller will have a tough time without Marshall, who is nearly irreplaceable following the season-ending ACL injury to backup point guard Dexter Strickland earlier this year.
Lefty Still Loose
"Luckily it's my right hand. If it was my left hand, then we'd probably have some problems. But we'll take it day-by-day and figure it out." - North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall, a southpaw who suffered a broken bone in his right wrist during an 87-73 win over Creighton to advance to the Sweet 16.