Brice Johnson made his first career start against Chaminade in the Maui Invitational Tournament only to be replaced by Desmond Hubert against Indiana and watch fellow freshman Joel James get the nod against UAB. The starting assignment isn’t what bothers me the most out of this situation (as long as Hubert isn’t the one in the lineup) the lack of minutes for Johnson is starting to become annoying and frankly doesn’t make any sense.
After another sluggish half in which UNC took just a six point lead into halftime against a team they should run out of the building, Johnson was one of the few bright spots with nine points in nine minutes on 4-6 from the field. Then in the second half, Johnson played just five minutes and scored two points.
I’ve defended starting fellow freshman Marcus Paige at the point rather than moving senior Dexter Strickland to the point and increasing minutes for other perimeter players because I firmly believe this team needs Paige to learn and be at his best late in the season. I’m advocating an increased role for Brice Johnson for the exact same reason.
Roy Williams has and probably always will favor upperclassmen and I think that’s typically a good thing to reward kids that stay with the program and show improvement as players, leadership is something in which it’s importance cannot be overlooked. But anybody with any eye for basketball can see how good this kid is right now and beyond that, how bad a couple of sophomores are who are getting minutes they do not deserve.
Hubert and fellow sophomore Jackson Simmons are on the court every game when frankly they don’t deserve to be. Combined they have averaged 15.6 minutes per game this season while Johnson has averaged 14 with Joel James at 16.1
Carolina went small for a couple stretches against UAB with McAdoo as the lone big man on the floor so some reduction in minutes makes sense in those situations. For a team that needs scoring, taking someone out that is averaging 9.2 ppg in just 14 minutes, taking him off the floor for two completely offensively inept players makes zero sense no matter what logic you are using.
I’m all for the development of young players and I recognize that the deeper the bench is the better the team is late in the season. With that said, it’s time to free Brice Johnson, when he’s on the floor this is simply a better team and I’m tired of watching him sit on the bench 65% of the game.