UNC Basketball: Drew's Departure Beneficial As the Tar Heels Prepare for Duke

Gary SuggContributor IIFebruary 6, 2011

Lets face it, North Carolina has hit some hard times lately. 

Ever since winning the NCAA Championship in 2009, the Heels have yet to find their feet again.

That is, until now.

North Carolina's first game after PG Larry Drew II decided to leave Chapel Hill turned out to be arguably the best performance from the Tar Heels all season.

As the Tar Heels hosted the Florida State Seminoles in Chapel Hill on Sunday, nobody knew what to expect out of the team following the sudden departure of Drew.  The performance of Drew's replacement, Kendall Marshall, would be the focus of the game, and the Tar Heels were eager to see how he would come out and play under the spotlight.

Nine points and 16 assists later, Marshall put on one of the best performances ever from a North Carolina freshman. Earning the school record for assists in an ACC game, as well as fourth most assists in a single game in school history, Marshall shot out like a cannon with a stellar display of awareness, presence and pure athletic ability.

Marshall's record breaking performance was happily received by the Tar Heel faithful.  "Kendall Marshall' chants echoed multiple times throughout the game in the Smith Center, along with a standing ovation as Marshall exited the game.

Another apparent positive outcome of Marshall's performance is the team chemistry.  All season freshman teammate Harrison Barnes has been more comfortable with Marshall on the floor.  Marshall's awareness and punctual passing has proven helpful to Barnes as he is just beginning to find his comfort zone in big games.

If ever there was a time for the Tar Heels to hit their stride, it's now. 

Their next game resides at Cameron Indoor against the Duke Blue Devils.

We all know this matchup is always a good one.  But this season's story for the 'Heels is getting better with each game.

Finally climbing back up into the AP Top 25 after a preseason No. 8 ranking, the Tar Heels begin to prepare for Duke with more momentum than ever.

College Basketball's best rivalry will be revived February 9th. Don't miss this game.