ST. LOUIS If North Carolina coach Roy Williams thinks there's a chance star point guard Kendall Marshall could play Friday night in the Tar Heels Sweet 16 matchup with Ohio, he's sure doing a good job of hiding it.
Speaking to reporters at Thursday's media session at the Edward Jones Dome, Williams all but ruled out his point guard's participation just four days after having a screw inserted into his fractured scaphoid in his right wrist.
"I have a strong, strong inclination that he is not going to play," Williams said. "If he comes in to my room tomorrow and says, My wrist feels great,' and he drops down to the floor and does 10 right handed pushups on his right hand, then I'll say I'll probably play his rear end - but I don't expect that to happen. I mean, the guy can't brush his teeth right now."
The talented sophomore is among the national leaders with 9.75 assists per game and his 351 assists are already new North Carolina and ACC single-season records. When he records at least nine assists in a game, the Tar Heels are 27-1 in his two seasons.
He's had double-doubles in points and assists in each of the Tar Heel's two NCAA Tournament games and has upped his scoring to 14.8 points per game in his last six games compared to just 6.8 points in UNC's first 30 games.
But the left-handed Marshall has yet to shoot, dribble or even catch a basketball since he departed Sunday's third round win over Creighton with 1:54 to play.
"The bottom line is, he has not participated in one play since last Sunday when I took him out of the game," Williams said. "He has not guarded one possession, he's not passed one ball, he's not shot one ball well, that's a lie, because he's holding his hand up like this yesterday, and he's catching the ball, and he's shooting it like this holding his hand up in the air with his cast on. But he hasn't participated.
"I just know the kid tells me he can't brush his teeth yet, how the dickens can he play basketball game if he can't brush his teeth? I mean, he can go out there with bad breath, but you still got to be able to play the dadgum game."
Marshall clearly wants to play but was non-committal on his status during an interview session in the North Carolina locker room, repeatedly saying he was day-to-day and would play when he felt well enough to do so.
The Cousy Award finalist plans to get fitted for a special brace Thursday night that he will wear Friday if he plays.
"I played a half of a half with a fractured wrist so I think that's a pretty high threshold," Marshall said. "I feel like any competitor will find a way to compete no matter what's thrown at them.
"I'm not going to put myself out there unless I feel like I can be effective and help my team. As a teammate, I'm going to have to be able to catch, pass, defend, things like that. Right now my team is ready to play without me if I'm not going to play, but I'm sure they would be more than happy to take me back if I am ready to play."
The 6-3 Marshall said the decision will come down to, "How much pain I'm in as well as the range of motion. If I feel like I can go out there and be effective and help my team out, I'll let coach know and then he'll decide.
"If we were to jump ball right now, I would not be playing."
The Tar Heels might be able to get past 13th-seeded Ohio Friday night without Marshall. But facing Tyshawn Taylor and No. 2 seed Kansas on Sunday afternoon without him would be a different story.
"It all depends on how I feel," Marshall said. "It is getting stronger, which is a positive. I'm able to flex a lot more now, things like that. I'm just taking it day by day until I feel like I'm ready to go."
The Tar Heels hope that's Friday night.