Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 3/21/12

Many pundits declared North Carolina’s chances of winning the NCAA Tournament over when point guard Kendall Marshall got hurt in the team’s second-round game last weekend. ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb was as definitive as possible speaking about the Tar Heels’ chances of winning the tournament.

“They will not get out of St. Louis. They will not go to New Orleans,” Gottlieb said on SportsCenter Tuesday.

North Carolina’s next two games would be in St. Louis and if they win both, they would advance to the Final Four in New Orleans. Obviously Gottlieb doesn’t think they’ll win both games. Many Carolina players heard his prediction and referenced it when speaking with the media.

“Overnight, we fell out of the race for a national championship?” All-America forward Harrison Barnes (pictured) said to an ESPN reporter Tuesday. “People telling us – your friend, Doug Gottlieb – we’re going back to Chapel Hill and not New Orleans. We just keep going. Our confidence hasn’t changed at all. We feel like we have people who can step up. Doug Gottlieb – the person who knows everything – has his own statements. But we’re going to continue to play good basketball.”

“It motivates us a lot,” junior forward John Henson said. “I was watching, I think ESPN SportsCenter this morning, and they were kind of writing us off … which is fine with me.”

Even Tyler Zeller said the same thing.

“We just watched a little ESPN segment. We were joking about it — they basically said that we’re coming back to Chapel Hill instead of going to New Orleans.”

The Heels know what everyone is saying about them and they’re out to prove the critics wrong. They face Ohio Thursday in St. Louis and would face the winner of the Kansas-NC State game. Even though Kansas would be favored over them, it’s not a given they won’t be able to advance.

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.

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