Kendall Marshall broke his wrist, and the North Carolina Tar Heels suddenly don’t look so good. Despite the 87-71 win in the third round over Creighton, sending them into the sweet sixteen for the fifth time in six years, the mood isn’t great. Marshall, who led the team with 18 points and 11 assists, is probably irreplaceable, and even if he somehow plays, it won’t be the same.
Marshall actually came back after injuring his hand at first before leaving the game for good. The Tar Heels just got John Henson back, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks as the Tar Heels simply outran their opponents. Few teams can actually keep up with UNC when they hit fifth gear.
We’ve learned over the weekend that winning your conference tournament doesn’t really help. It’s the regular season that means more, as Missouri, and Vanderbilt, and now Florida State have learned. The Seminoles lost to Cincinnati 62-56, and we’ve got four Ohio teams in the Sweet Sixteen. A battle between the Bearcats, led by Sean Kilpatrick who scored 18 points, and the Buckeyes, who await them in the next round, brings back ghosts of championships past.
Cincinnati won back to back national titles in 1961 and 1962, when a guy named Oscar Robertson was playing for them, beating Ohio State in those finals. They’ve met only once since then, in 2006, with Ohio State winning 72-50. The Bearcats will be entering that game as underdogs against (#6 vs #2) which won’t really matter.
But Cincy beating FSU isn’t a huge surprise. They were hot in the Big East tournament, and the ACC is a weak division this year. Only the two North Carolina schools, UNC and State remain. Now, the Wolfpack beating Georgetown? That’s more of a surprise. The first game of Sunday ended with Lorenzo Brown hitting three free throws with 10 second left to give NC State the win and their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2005.
Georgetown had Hollis Thompson, and that was it. The Junior scored 23 points and grabbed 5 rebounds, but was alone in the battle. C.J. Leslie was the best for Cincy, scoring 14 points and grabbing 8 boards, with four players in double figures, and getting only 3 points from their bench.
Michigan State didn’t look like a number one seed, but Tom Izzo teams seldom do. They just work hard and grind out a win, this time a 65-61 against Saint Louis. Keith Appling led the way with 19 points. Draymond Green was huge with 16 poins, 13 rebounds and six assists.
Norfolk State looked nothing like the team that beat Missouri, losing by 34 point to Florida, as the Gators had five players in double figures. Kyle O’Quinn, who probably got too much praise after the Mizzou win finished with only 4 points. Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 19 points.
Kansas had a rough time as well, beating Purdue 63-60, needing a late rally to come through. Robbie Hummel scored 26 for the Boilermakers, which wasn’t enough. Elijah Johnson led the Jayhawks with 18 points. Ohio beat South Florida 62-56 and Xavier beat Lehigh 70-58 to complete the Sweet Sixteen picture.
Thursday games – Wisconsin (4) vs (1) Syracuse. We got Syracuse in this one. Louisville (4) vs (1) Michigan State, and we’re going for the upset. The Spartans are overrated. Cincinnati (6) vs (2) Ohio State. We’re going with Ohio State. Florida (7) vs (3) Marquette. We got the Golden Eagles.
Friday games – Xavier (10) vs (3) Baylor. We’ll go Big 12 here. Ohio (13) vs (1) North Carolina. Even without Kendall Marshall, we got UNC. Indiana (4) vs (1) Kentucky. Oh man. Can the Hoosiers pull another one on the best lineup in the nation? Hard to believe. North Carolina State (11) vs (2) Kansas. Jayhawks win.