Taylor, the savvy senior hailing from Bloomington, Minn., has played in 106 career games and has started 57. Marshall, a sophomore out of Arlington, Va., may trail in game action – 43 career games, 26 starts – but he's earned veteran-like respect across the country for his maturity on and off the court.
Wisconsin's 2010-11 second-team All-America is averaging 11.0 points, 5.8 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game this season, but most impressive is his 5.0 assist-to-turnover ratio. Taylor's 3.35 career A/T ratio is on pace to shatter the NCAA record, set last spring by UTEP's Julyan Stone (2.70).
"He's not one-dimensional," Marshall told reporters on Tuesday. "Last year I think he averaged 18, 5 and 5, something like that. He affects his team in more than one area."
Marshall is averaging 4.8 points and 10.8 assists per game this season and currently owns a 4.33 A/T ratio. His career A/T stands at 2.76 six games into his second season.
"What I admire about his game is the way he sees the floor," Taylor said on Monday. "He's always finding the open guy and he's really unselfish. He's kind of the consummate point guard."
What separates these two All-America candidates is their teams' respective offensive style of play. Wisconsin runs a deliberate halfcourt set designed to force opponents to defend for the entire shot clock, while North Carolina is notorious for scoring in transition after made baskets.
In the five seasons leading up to '11-‘12, Wisconsin scored 67.9 points per game, while UNC averaged 83.2 points. The Badgers are scoring 73.0 points per contest through six games in November, compared to 88.0 for the Tar Heels.
But despite that difference in philosophy, both point guards have excelled in managing their offenses. According to kenpom.com, Wisconsin ranks fifth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (117.0), defined as points per 100 possessions. North Carolina is four spots back in the ninth position with a 115.4 mark.
If you ask their head coaches, it's not their statistics that stand out. It's their intangibles.
"I think both of them really like to make their team win," UNC head coach Roy Williams said on Tuesday. "They try to make other players better. They try to get the ball to other people. They're more facilitators than they are scorers, even though Jordan can also really score."
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan echoed Williams's comments, saying, "Those two guys, they understand the game, they understand what the team needs, and they bring that every night when they go on the floor."
Most importantly, they know how to win. Marshall and Taylor have combined to win 80.3 percent (53-of-66) of their starts since the beginning of the '10-‘11 season. Throw the stats out. It's just about winning.
"At the end of the day I want to win, so I really couldn't care less if he goes for 20 and I go for two," Taylor said. "If we win, I'll be happy with that. I'm just trying to go out and help my team win however I can."
The definition of a "true point guard" is subjective based on a coach's preference –
Williams termed it as "a guy who really looks to run the show" – but what it comes down to is filling the role that the team needs.
Wisconsin's halfcourt offense requires a guard that can create off the dribble, knock down shots and keep turnovers at a minimum while keeping his teammates involved. North Carolina's uptempo approach demands a point guard that can move the ball up the floor at a rapid pace – Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson did it with their legs, Marshall uses the pass – and take advantage of the scoring talent flanking him.
For Williams, Marshall meets his criteria of a true point guard.
"I think he fits it because his concern is trying to get everyone involved and everyone doing their job and winning," Williams said.
Both point guards will factor heavily in Wednesday's outcome, but their true value will likely be more than what the box score suggests.