(2) UNC vs. (11) Marquette
(2)North Carolina Tar Heels
The impact of freshman point guard Kendall Marshall on this basketball team has been well documented, but never more evident than in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to Coach Roy Williams’ decision to insert Marshall into the starting lineup, it appeared as if the Tar Heels could possibly be headed towards a second consecutive NIT berth, rather than a trip to the big dance. UNC, however, has recently played some of the best basketball in the country, averaging 92.5 points per game in the 2011 NCAA Tournament while Marshall continues to get his teammates the ball in a position to score and score easily. The North Carolina starting front court of Tyler Zeller, John Henson and freshman sensation Harrison Barnes has totaled 140 points and 67 rebounds (an average of 23.3 points and 11.2 rebounds per game for each player). Henson and Zeller have each set career-highs in scoring with 28 and 32, respectively. Marshall, meanwhile, is averaging 12 assists per game in the tournament. With this team’s length inside and Marshall’s sharp decision-making, the Tar Heels will be a tough out moving forward.
(11)Marquette Golden Eagles
The Big East got eleven teams into the 2011 NCAA Tournament and just about everyone figured at least two of those teams (and I mean at LEAST two) would advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Few, however, expected Marquette to be one of them. Coach Buzz Williams’ team has done it on the defensive end of the floor, holding its first two tournament opponents to an average of 58.5 points per game. Offensively, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler have carried this team all season and continue to do so while top reserve Jae Crowder has averaged 13 points per game on .571 shooting in the NCAA Tournament. They Golden Eagles don’t play the most exciting or aesthetically pleasing brand of basketball in the country, but they have been effective and, while 310 Div. I basketball programs are no longer in the mix for an NCAA title, Williams’ team is still alive and kicking. Moving forward, the question will be: Where will Marquette find the scoring to keep up some of the top teams in college hoops?
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: North Carolina. While Marquette has done a great job of controlling the pace in its first two games of the tournament, Marshall and the Tar Heels will push the tempo and out-run the Golden Eagles.