This North Carolina team is the best offensive team in the country when it is clicking. Maryland found that out the hard way in an 85-69 loss to the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament’s second round.
Between breaking a longtime ACC record and a breakout performance by a freshman, this Tar Heels club sent an early statement that it will embrace its role as the conference heavyweight this weekend in Atlanta.
Article continues below ...
And with the conference’s best point guard running the show, who knows how many losses Roy Williams’ club can dish out this month.
That didn’t take long: Kendall Marshall got the five assists he needed to set the ACC single-season record in the first four and a half minutes of play. Before media members could look up, Marshall was already smiling and pointing at Harrison Barnes—the recipient of North Carolina’s little piece of history.
First came a transition dish to a spinning John Henson. Then, he set up Tyler Zeller for a dunk. Barnes followed suit with a layup and a foul on a Marshall pass. Then came another transition dime, this time to a streaking Zeller for a stretched out jam.
Marshall would finish the game with 13 points and 12 assists.
The record-setter to Barnes was fitting—he benefitted more than any other player last year when Marshall was inserted into the lineup after an ugly loss to Georgia Tech. Without former point guard Larry Drew’s departure, who knows if the All-ACC forward could have turned his freshman season around. One thing’s clear: Barnes and his teammates have one of the best pure point guards in ACC history running the show this season and now the record book proves it.
Roy is really going to dislike this tournament now: John Henson fell on his wrist in the first half after a hard foul in transition, and mainly spent the rest of the game on the bench or in the locker room. Henson’s wrist was not broken, according to reports, but highlights the exact reason Roy Williams is reluctant to put too much stock in the ACC Tournament. He wants to challenge for tournament titles of the national kind.
By all accounts, Henson will return this postseason. But his absence did highlight one of the reasons I put together an All-Bench team earlier this week, as James Michael McAdoo stepped right in and played his best game of the season.
McAdoo finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. His role will only get bigger as March progresses.
Brighter horizons: Maryland has potential. Mark Turgeon will walk out of Phillips Arena today knowing that, if all the pieces stay and fall into place, he has a solid team coming back to College Park, Md., next year.
It all starts with 6-foot-5 freshman Nick Faust, whose development should turn Maryland into an NCAA team in 2013. Faust earned the starting point guard role late in the season and began attacking more and more in the final weeks. He has all-league potential and could be a star in the making if he works at his game during the offseason.
There is the loss of senior Sean Mosley, and the occasional (okay, regular) erratic shot selection of Terrell Stoglin, but there is promise for a strong team that could give the big boys a run for their money next season.
Rooting against the Cavaliers?: North Carolina’s next opponent will be the winner of the Virginia-North Carolina State game. This season’s history suggests the Tar Heels would rather see the Wolfpack, as Tony Bennett’s defensive-oriented Cavaliers frustrated the Tar Heels in two close UNC wins.
But Virginia is struggling to stay healthy (and stay in the NCAA Tournament), while the Wolfpack seem to be hitting their stride on a three-game winning streak, including a win over Boston College in the first round. Don’t be surprised to hear Roy Williams sending Tony Bennett a congratulations text if his team wins this afternoon’s game.