UNC's Williams still uncertain of Marshall's status

acarter@newsobserver.comMarch 21, 2012 

— North Carolina coach Roy Williams spent part of his weekly radio show Monday night explaining that he didn’t know whether Kendall Marshall would play Friday night.

When Williams met with reporters Tuesday, he kept fielding variations of the question: Might Marshall be available against Ohio in the NCAA tournament’s Midwest Regional semifinals?

“You’re asking me questions I don’t know,” Williams said at one point. “I’m in uncharted waters … I have no idea. I mean, I know you don’t like that, but guys, I’m being truthful with you. (If) he comes running in here now and says, ‘God, I can play!’ I’ll say, ‘Well let’s talk about that.’

“But he’s in a freaking cast from his thumb to his back.”

Williams paused for a moment before saying, the cast is “not quite that big.”

Marshall broke his right wrist Sunday during the Tar Heels’ 87-73 third-round victory against Creighton. He had surgery Monday, when a doctor inserted a screw into his wrist.

Williams didn’t have any answers about Marshall’s playing status, but he was certain, at least, of one thing.

“Our preparation is 100 percent to play without Kendall,” he said.

Barnes fires back at Gottlieb: Tar Heels sophomore forward Harrison Barnes has a message for Doug Gottlieb, the ESPN radio host and college basketball analyst: “Just text him,” Barnes told an ESPN employee who sat in on North Carolina’s news conference Tuesday. “See if he can get that flight over to St. Louis. I’d love to meet him.”

The Tar Heels will travel to St. Louis this week for the Midwest Regional, but Barnes and his teammates were irked by a segment on ESPN in which the network’s analysts proclaimed North Carolina less of a national title contender because of Marshall’s injury.

“Our confidence hasn’t changed at all,” Barnes said. “I mean, we feel like we have people that can step up. You know, Doug Gottlieb, the person who knows everything, has his own statements.”

A media member then jokingly told Barnes that Gottlieb couldn’t shoot free throws well during his days at Oklahoma State.

“Among other things,” Barnes said.

White, Watts to see increased roles: Regardless of whether Marshall plays, freshman Stilman White and Justin Watts will see their minutes increase, Williams said. Both would be counted on to fill the void at point guard.

Combined, Watts and White have played an average of about 11 minutes per game. White is the more traditional point guard of the pair, though Watts effectively played point guard during a first-half stretch of a victory against N.C. State in the semifinals of the ACC tournament.

“He did a great job,” senior Tyler Zeller said of Watts. “I think we actually went on a big run – I think it was like a 10-2 or 11-2 run at one time.”

White has grown noticeably more comfortable. At least, that’s how Barnes sees it.

“When he first got out there, we were a little scared he might have an anxiety attack and just pass out,” Barnes said. “So he definitely calmed down a lot.”

Carter: 919-829-8944

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