Gerry Broome, Associated Press
North Carolina is reliving a 28-year-old nightmare.
In 1984, the Tar Heels began the year favored to win the national basketball championship — but point guard Kenny Smith broke his wrist.
Fast forward to 2012, and point guard Kendall Marshall could be out with a broken wrist Friday when North Carolina meets Ohio in the NCAA tournament's round of 16 in St. Louis.
The Tar Heels were unable to get it done in 1984 with the team that included future NBA stars Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins even though Smith returned to the lineup.
North Carolina will see if can get it done this year with a roster than includes Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller with Marshall's return uncertain.
Bill Guthridge, an assistant to retired Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith from 1967-97, said he immediately thought of Kenny Smith after Marshall's injury.
"It's just tough to lose someone so instrumental in the way you play, and that's what Kendall does," said Guthridge, who retired in 2000 after three years as head coach.
Smith was a freshman starter and missed a month after breaking his left wrist. The '84 team never rediscovered its dominant form after his return.
Guthridge is hoping it doesn't end the same way this time.
"That happens and hopefully we can overcome it," Guthridge said of Marshall's injury. "Coach (Roy) Williams is a great coach and he'll come up with something and hopefully we'll work it out and we can get a win or two — maybe a national championship, who knows?"
Marshall, a lefty, had surgery to insert a screw into his right wrist Monday. Williams said the top-seeded Tar Heels (31-5) are preparing to play without Marshall in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
Marshall is the Tar Heels' most irreplaceable player, from the way he drives Williams' fast-paced offense to the loss of No. 2 ballhandler Dexter Strickland to a knee injury in January.
Smith knows his injury prevented the '84 team from being considered among the game's greats.
"Obviously with Michael Jordan, you know who he's become and who he is, arguably we could've probably been one of the best teams ever, I think," said Smith, now an NBA analyst for TNT and a college basketball analyst for Turner/CBS Sports. "I think we would've been thought of like the (1991) UNLV team that no one was coming close to ... I really believe that."
This was also expected to be one of UNC's best squads.
There were similarities between the 1984 and 2012 teams even before Marshall's injury. Barnes plays the role of Jordan and Henson provides the scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking from the long-armed Perkins. Zeller anchors the post the way eventual No. 1 overall draft pick Brad Daugherty did in 1984. Both teams were preseason No. 1s.
But it all started unraveling with a thud in '84.
UNC was ranked No. 1 in every Associated Press poll that season except for a week at No. 2. But as the team improved to 17-0, Smith jumped a pass and raced in for a dunk before being fouled by LSU's John Tudor and knocked to his home floor.
Smith missed eight games before returning with a rubber cast to play the final two regular-season games. He returned to the starting lineup during the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
But after juggling from Smith to reserve Steve Hale and back to Smith again, UNC's chemistry was off. The Tar Heels went 26-1 in the regular season — a one-point loss to Arkansas was the only blemish — and 14-0 in league play, but lost to Duke in the ACC semifinals then fell to Bobby Knight and Indiana in the NCAA round of 16 in Atlanta.
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