Nov 20, 2012; Lahaina, HI, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) reacts after dunking against the Butler Bulldogs during the 2012 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

UNC Basketball: The Great Line-Up Debate

That really shouldn’t be a debate. No I am not Roy Williams he has won a ton of games and he is an amazing coach. Even the great coaches however don’t always get it right. Roy has admitted he isn’t perfect a many of times well I have to point out another place where he is making a mistake. Before I get started let me preface this by saying it is still early and this team has a ton of growing to do.

Play the best players you have. That in itself seems like a simple statement but it is one that Roy has sometimes not adhered to. Most notably in 2011 which was Kendall Marshall’s freshman year. That year it was the Drew vs. Marshall debate. Drew won out over the better player, Kendall, because he has been at UNC longer. It took a 20 point beat down at GT to bring Kendall into the starting lineup. I for one am hoping the debate that I am about to further doesn’t take that long to figure out.

This debate is one that involves two positions. The first is Desmond Hubert vs. Brice Johnson and the second is Dexter Strickland vs. PJ Hairston (when healthy). Lets start with the easiest one Hubert vs. Johnson. Physically these two are essentially the same person. Brice may be a bit skinnier but not much. In about 3 more minutes of game time Brice Johnson is averaging 9x as many points, 2.5x as many rebounds and both are averaging about a block a game. This is easy. Brice Johnson is by far UNC’s most polished offensive player in the post his energy is also huge on both ends. The numbers also speak to the fact Hubert vs. Johnson really isn’t much of a debate. IMO Johnson should be seeing about 6-7 more minutes (most taken from Desmond Hubert) a game and should start.

Now to the tougher debate but still not all that tough. Dexter Strickland vs. PJ Hairston. I will get right to the point. Dexter is a good defensive player and can really get to the basket but his shot selection is bad and with him on the floor he makes JMM and Reggie Bullock’s jobs much much harder. What I mean by this is when Dex is on the floor at the 2 the space that is created is much smaller because teams don’t have to guard Dex tight on the perimeter. This makes it much much harder for UNC’s weapons to get space and get open looks.

PJ Hairston on the other hand stretches the floor just about as far as anyone in the country, creating more space for the other players on the court. His defense is also very good especially with his bigger frame. One could easily make a case that PJ is the teams second best player. In 10 less minutes a game PJ averages just a point less than the teams second leading scorer Reggie Bullock. He also rebounds the ball at 4x the rate of Dexter, that is a quality which is huge for a team that is struggling to rebound the ball.

This line-up debate has simply come down to Roy is clearly playing the more experienced player over the better players. Desmond’s role on this team needs to be cut back pretty substantially (think he will be much better with another year) but Brice Johnson and Joel James deserve much more time on the floor.

As for Dex he is much more important to this team he is a leader and a Senior. His role doesn’t need to be scaled back it just needs to be altered. Dex is an good PG for this team and his speed is great for UNC’s offense. I would like to see PJ Hairston playing 22-27 minutes a game while Dex moves most of his minutes over to the PG slot to help Marcus Paige, probably along the lines of 20 minutes a game with only about 7 being seen at the 2 guard. UNC’s best line-up (not necessarily starting line-up) is Paige, Hairston, Bullock, JMM, and Johnson. That is a line-up that can score, rebound and play D. The sooner these 5 start playing more and more minutes together the sooner we will all see the quality UNC team that we all know resides in Chapel Hill.

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Tags: North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Derek Ball

    kind of tired of this which went on all durng the drew marshall debacle and dexter bullock last year until the injury solved the problem and bullock was on the floor

    here is another aspect… cant recruit top 20 five star kids and expect them to sit the bench behind players of less talent and impact……i think this isa reasonUNC has lost out a few big name players recently….stubborness

    i like what dex brings to the table however hairston was a top 15 player in just about every recruting rankings and hes only playing just over 20 minutes a game???

    • Keeping_It_Heel

      15.7 actually

    • Souvanh

      I’m wondering if this is a reason we’re not getting the top guys anymore!

      • hatboy

        Same thought here. Roy needs someone to hit him in the head for him to realize this. I’m tire of watching Strickland and Desmond starting over better players.

        • Souvanh

          It’s make me mad because we have talent and can win with the right lineup!

  • Souvanh

    I’ve been saying that for the last 3 weeks! This lineup is potent and scary if all play to their ability ! Paige would average more assist and they could create a lot of matchup problem for a lot of teams! Dex need to come off the bench and be a spark plug that we are missing when our starters are out! Johnson is a no brainer! I think he can almost average a double double!

    • John A. Powell

      what was dexter’s ranking coming out of hs?

      • Souvanh

        He was rank 28th or 30th in rivals. com

        • Derek Ball

          others had him in the 70′s but rankings arent all that indicative of actual talent…..look at aaron craft from ohio st…..he was a 3 star recruit! dex brings things to the table but hairston has potential to be a lottery pick

  • jessica oxendine

    Agreed with everything you wrote. Hairston has energy and fires the team up. He can pass and hit a sweet jump shot. Let Strickland come off the bench. As for Brice or Desmond come on…. we all know the answer to that one. PS. How great was it that Creighton lost and Kensucky. :P

  • gregrustin

    please wake up………………………… ROY.

  • Dereck

    I’m so sick of always having a debate about line ups under Roy. Clearly he is gonna do his own thing and its sad. When is the last time UNC goes 2 straight recruiting classes without 1 TOP 10 prospect? There is a reason for this…would u go play behind somebody that u are clearly much better than? It’s almost like he is afraid of playing more than 1 freshman at a time these days! As a coach u have to play your line up based on what u have in front of u. Dex shouldn’t start unless u gonna make him the PG, Its dumb to start your primary and only back up to Paige at the 2g spot and keep using his ‘defense’ as the reason u start him!!! and my God hubert at center? huh? I see Brice as the best fit overall to play the most mins next to Mcadoo but I can see Joel James at center once he gets a few more games under his belt. Paige, PJ, Bullock, Mcadoo and James start to me!