Undersized and overmatched, perhaps, just like the remainder of the NCAA tournament field.
With one of the most impressive performances so far, the North Carolina Tar Heels rode a dominant first half to an overwhelming 81-63 victory over Marquette to reach the Elite Eight a year after missing the tourney entirely.
A solid second half performance by the Golden Eagles — who outscored UNC 48-41 in the final 20 minutes — could not make up for the onslaught that came earlier.
The NCAA’s premier rebounding squad used its height and length advantage at both ends of the court to jump on the Golden Eagles after Marquette had taken a 10-8 lead.
North Carolina went on a 19-0 run, largely by simply throwing the ball up where smaller Marquette could not reach it.
Alley-oops were the order of the day as the taller, longer Tar Heels took advantage.
Defensively, the tallest Tar Heel, John Henson, who has ben compared to an aircraft carrier, was disruptive as well with five blocks to go with his 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Marquette missed several open jumpers, compounding its problems with a horrific 6-for-31 performance from the field prior to the break.
UNC scored 32 of the next 37 points following Marquette’s good start, holding the Golden Eagles to the lowest point total for a half in its tournament history.
Henson blocked Marquette’s first shot of the game in a sign of things to come and did it again to start the second half.
With at least four players who could be NBA lottery picks in the next two years, UNC is one of the most talented groups in the entire tournament and it showed, The Tar Heels had a 26-6 points in the paint advantage in the first half alone and held Marquette without a single assist, though the Golden Eagles rallied for nine in their much-improved second half.
If was a tough end to the season for Toronto’s Junior Cadougan, who was one of Marquette’s better players with 10 points and a team-high five assists.
Potential top pick Harrison Barnes had 20 points and six assists, while Tyler Zeller produced 27 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and three steals for UNC.
Zeller — with 27, 23 and 32 points in three tournament games — and Barnes are playing their best basketball of the season, while Henson and point guard Kendall Marshall have been solid, as well.
If not the favourites, the No. 2 seeds now have to be considered one of the top contenders to cut down the net a week Monday in Houston.
Just 7-4 early in the season with Barnes, the first freshman ever to be named a pre-season all-American struggling mightily, North Carolina has flipped the switch in a big way. Since mid-January, Roy Williams’ squad has lost twice to Duke, but won its other 17 games.
Duke, of course, has been eliminated, so if that’s the only team that has the Kryptonite for this team of supermen, look out field!
If North Carolina can pull off a win on Sunday, it says here they will go on to become the 2011 NCAA champions.
It’s hard to argue otherwise with the way they are playing.