TURIN, Italy, March 21, 2011—These past few days have been hard, peons. Without steady internet access here in Italy, it’s been impossible to devour all things March Madness like the twenty years previous in my life. Yeah, I was filling brackets out in my Barney the Purple Dinosaur diapers.
Despite this insurmountable wall that blocks me from properly enjoying my favorite time of year, I’ve made a commitment to keeping track of a couple a teams. One, of course, is my men in Orange, Syracuse. But alas, Marquette harnessed their inner Dwayne Wade and gave ‘em the boot last night along with a little help from an absolutely horrendous over-and-back call by the dubious refs. But I digress.
Now I must sadly pick a new team to rep all the way to Houston. After an exhausting three minutes of heavy analysis, I believe I have my selection.
You know the favorites by now. You’ve read all that the conglomerate of sports-blogging prowess on the internet has to offer (including President Obama): namely, Ohio State, Kansas, and Duke.
And why not? All three teams are rolling through their opponents right now like Jack Dempsey versus the Hanson brothers. Picking one of them is practical and smart. But not for me, because I am neither.
You can have your computer-generated favorites. I’ll take UNC.
Ever since Roy Williams’s epiphany that freshman Kendell Marshall made the incumbent point guard, Larry Drew II, look like Zac Effron trying to play basketball in High School Musical—I mean, not that I’ve seen it, you see—the Heels have found success. I’ll say it now: Marshall is as talented as his fellow freshman teammate, the highly touted Harrison Barnes. Naturally, he hasn’t had the same exposure. But that’s about to end.
Take a look at the team’s three-point win over Washington. Marshall set the NCAA Tournament record for assists with 14, but that doesn’t even measure his true impact on that game. Heels big man Tyler Zeller had a monster game with 23 points, with fifteen of them coming in the paint. Zeller’s domination was largely facilitated by the heady decision-making of his point guard. A good point guard’s primary responsibility is to feed the block—a facet of the game understood clearly by the freshman Marshall. He also set up a few threes for the smooth-shooting Barnes, who knocked down four in all en route to a 22-point performance.
Obviously, there are other factors besides Marshall that makes UNC so dangerous. After struggling to live up to his gargantuan hype at the beginning of the season, Barnes has heated up progressively, and has developed the reputation of a late-game assassin. Likewise, forward John Henson’s game has rapidly improved his ability to step out, challenge the perimeter and terrorize the paint with his eight-foot arms. This makes him quite the asset for the Heels. The seven-footer Zeller has also shown the potential to conquer the post, at long last.
The potential for an Ohio State vs. UNC Elite Eight meeting lurks. Jared Sullinger matched with Henson and Zeller? David Lighty and Jon Diebler trading threes with Barnes? It’s like a March Madness fan’s Chinese buffet of goodness (without the heartburn and/or indigestion).
There you have it, peons. If you’re a smart cookie, you’ll read this carefully. After all, I’ve been right nearly 13 percent on my bracket this year.
Read more of Sam Bovard’s work at Balls Without Discretion in the Communities at The Washington Times.
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