Several weeks ago, I wrote a column on why I felt that Brice Johnson should be in the starting lineup. I hate to say “I told you so,” but the “I told you so!” In my first column, I discussed how Brice Johnson could start in the low post alongside James McAdoo or Joel James. I know that McAdoo will be in the starting lineup unless he is injured. However, Brice has been very productive this season. Last night, many people had the opportunity to see Carolina play the #1 ranked team in the nation, Indiana. Brice scored, defended, and rebounded.
Sure, he made a few mistakes last night when he did not stay on his guy. Also, he knocked a ball or two out of bounds. In my opinion, I’ll accept this from a player like Brice who hustles and plays with no fear. Keep in mind, he is a freshman. The kid plays with a chip on his shoulder, which is what Carolina needs on this team. He may be the smallest player in the low post, but in my opinion, he is the toughest. I disagree with Dick Vitale who stated that “Brice Johnson needs to play with more heart.” In several games this season, this kid has been one of the bright spots in Carolina’s offense. In 16 minutes of play against Indiana, Brice made five out of his seven field goals for a total of 10 points to go along with two rebounds.
No disrespect to any of the Tar Heels on the roster. All of these guys play hard. I will never question their heart or integrity. However, based on what I have seen thus far, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson are worthy of big minutes. If I was Roy Williams, my starting lineup would be Marcus Paige, Leslie McDonald, P.J. Hairston, Brice Johnson, and James McAdoo. Reggie Bullock performed better at times last season when he came off the bench. Possibly, Reggie is the kind of player who needs to see the game unfold from the sideline prior to entering the game. Likewise, Dexter may be more effective coming off the bench as well. Dexter excels at pushing the ball and attacking the defense. Dexter is not a shooter. However, his ability to do so is negated by playing the shooting guard position.
All in all, I believe that things will turn around for the Tar Heels. If this current UNC squad needs any inspiration, then look at the 2000 Tar Heel squad. Although Carolina finished the regular season at 18-13, UNC went to the Final Four. The Heels were led by a freshman named Joseph Forte. Another resemblance is that the 2000 Carolina team lost to Indiana early in the season.