ST. LOUIS — Roughly 20 minutes before the North Carolina basketball team received the bad news on their point guard Sunday, Dexter Strickland sat on a stool away from the commotion and discussed how much he’d learned simply by watching for the past two months.
“I understand a lot more about how to play the game and how to recognize different situations than I did before,” Strickland said after the Tar Heels’ 87-73 NCAA Midwest win over Creighton in Greensboro.
When news came shortly thereafter that point guard Kendall Marshall had broken a bone in his right wrist and might be sidelined for the rest of the tournament, Strickland’s words seemed cruelly ironic for his team.
When the 6-foot-3 junior was lost for the season after suffering a right knee ACL injury at Virginia Tech on Jan. 19, there was no viable Plan-B behind Marshall at the point.
Against Ohio on Friday in a regional semifinal game, freshman Stilman White and senior wingman Justin Watts will probably have to direct the offense.
Had it not been for Strickland’s injury, Marshall’s absence wouldn’t be so potentially devastating. A wing guard who started 19 games, Strickland made a smooth, effective adjustment to the back-up point job.
“It’s tough to have to sit all of this out,” Strickland said. “It’s going to be wild out there in St. Louis with us and State there. It’s going to be wild, but you have to make the best of your situation.
“For me, watching how Kendall runs the team and how the other defenses try to attack us will help me a lot in the long run.”
Marshall, a sophomore, had surgery on Monday in Chapel Hill.
Marshall, junior forward John Henson and sophomore forward Harrison Barnes will make decisions on whether to stay in school or turn pro after the season. But it’s only logical to assume that recent injuries suffered by Marshall and Henson could influence their decisions.
But for now, nothing can change the fact that unless Marshall makes a remarkable recovery, North Carolina’s two best point guards will be watching from the bench Friday in the Edward Jones Dome.