NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete UNC Tournament Primer

If there’s a better example than addition by subtraction in college basketball than when the UNC's Larry Drew transferred, then I’d love to see it.  I’m not ready to call Kendall Marshall the Lou Gehrig to Drew II’s Wally Pip, but it might get to that level if the Heels do some serious damage in the 2011 NCAA Turnament.  The instant Roy Williams inserted the freshman maestro into the lineup, the Tar Heels front court went from good to explosive in the blink of a killer crossover.

Marshall has run the show for UNC in a half court setting, but more importantly his play has unleashed Roy Williams transition DNA and finishers like Barnes, Zeller, and Henson have been the beneficiaries.  Zeller is an underrated big in terms of running the floor and he’s absolutely blossomed with Marshall distributing the rock.  Barnes has suddenly found all of the open looks he could want and he hasn’t disappointed as the Heels have ridden the talented freshman to a conference title. 

Aside from stellar pass-first point guard play, the Heels are one of the few teams that can boast a true small forward scorer to go along with two terrific paint finishers.  Williams' club can beat you in a track meet or a half court grinder.  The one Achilles heel is the lack of multiple jumpshooters, which means a credible zone may give the Heels fits somewhere along the way, but you better have the horses inside if you want to pull a board out of that zone against UNC’s monster front court.

Key wins:  Duke, Kentucky, Virginia Tech

Key losses:  Duke, Georgia Tech (really?), Texas

Player(s) to watch:  It starts with Marshall’s play at the one.  Henson and Zeller give the Heels the best 1-2 post punch in the country.  Harrison Barnes is one of the two or three best true threes in college hoops.  The X-factor is Dexter Strickland.  He has to take pressure off of Marshall as a creator.  Where are the jump shooting threats?

Top 25 Matchup Wheelhouse:  Teams that want to play fast and lack the size to compete on the backboards play right into Carolina’s hands.  Marquette, St John’s, and Duke fit this bill.

Teams in the Top 25 to fear:  Teams that guard and force you to hit jump shots in a half court, especially teams with athletic front courts will frustrate the Heels.  Pitt, Texas, and Purdue can slow tempo and constrict the floor forcing Marshall and Strickland to hit jumpers over the top.  Pitt has Nassir Robinson and Texas Jordan Hamilton/Gary Johnson, who as bigger wings can matchup well Barnes.

-- Kevin Berger

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

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