One of the most debated topics going into the season was what starting lineup the North Carolina Tar Heels would employ this season. Three spots were considered locks with James Michael McAdoo at power forward, Reggie Bullock at small forward and freshman Marcus Paige at the point. Those three spots held true in the exhibition opener against Shaw, the other two spots ended up being senior Dexter Strickland at shooting guard and sophomore Desmond Hubert at center.
Roy Williams explained that Hubert got the start over his other options inside, freshman Joel James and Brice Johnson because he has been playing better at practice and has a little better idea of what he’s doing than the others. As I said before, the lineup against Shaw isn’t likely to be the last that Roy sends out this season.
Roy indicated as much in his post game comments about Huberts play pointing out the obvious, that the sophomore didn’t play as well in the games as he had in practices. Both James and Johnson played very well, especially James who looked very good offensively and did an excellent job on the boards. James also played more minutes than Johnson, indicating that he is ahead of his skinnier fellow frosh.
During the game Roy mixed and matched several different lineups and experimented with almost every possible combination. All 12 scholarship players played at least seven minutes before the walk ons played the final two minutes of action. McAdoo led the way with 26 minutes followed by Paige with 23, Bullock with 22 and Strickland with 21.
An indication that the starting lineup may change is the distribution of Huberts minutes. Desmond played a total of 15 mins including the final two minutes with four walk on players, not a typical starters duty. Hubert was outplayed by both James and Jonson and played less minutes (18-15) than James. Hubert also didn’t contribute much with just two points and three rebounds.
Transfer Luke Davis played pretty well in his seven minutes of play, I expect Roy to continue giving Davis minutes every game this season. Last season the team was burnt when they had to go to Stillman White as the backup (and eventual playoff starter) after the injury to Strickland forced him into the rotation and White had very little experience.
UNC played Georgetown in a close scrimmage on Sunday so we won’t know what if any adjustments Roy makes to the starting lineup and his substitution patters until the season opener November 9th against Garner Webb. One thing is for sure, with the depth on the perimeter and all the inexperience on this young team, Roy’s rotation experiments are likely to go well into the season until he finds the right mix.