First off I want to state that I am a huge supporter of North Carolina head coach Roy Williams. I believe in him as a coach and as a recruiter and it typically annoys me to hear fans complaining about his performance in either capacity. He’s a hall of famer with two national titles and countless other accomplishments as the head coach of Carolina and Kansas, but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect.
The way he is distributing minutes is beginning to weigh on me and it’s not just Brice Johnson who needs to play more, I have issue with the vast majority of the way he’s handing out minutes. To start, I wrote an entire feature on why Brice needs more minutes and a starting role on the team HERE. In short, he’s a big time scorer and the Heels need that, he’s active and he rebounds, again the team needs that, 14 minutes per game makes no sense. Johnson played just five second half minutes against UAB after scoring nine points in nine minutes on 4-5 shooting in the first half. Sure UNC went small for a good portion of the second half, but Brice should have received far more than five minutes in the half.
Fellow freshman big man Joel James averages just 16 minutes per game while Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons combine for about 16 minutes per game. That means that during a 40 minutes game you are just as likely to see either Hubert or Simmons on the court as you are the promising freshman James and more likely to see that combo than Johnson. So far this season one of the best lineups UNC has used has been when they go small with PJ Hairston or JP Tokoto at the power forward spot, maybe if they actually played their best big men the results would be better.
Hubert and Simmons are probably nice kids who work really hard in practice, go to class and study hard and say all the right things. Great, pat them on the back and keep a roster spot reserved for them and play them a little, but not as much as they are playing right now because it’s hurting this team. Simmons shouldn’t be on the court unless he’s checking in with Blue Steel and Hubert should play very sparingly maybe 3-5 minutes per game.
Onto the perimeter, again, this team struggles at creating their own shot and the only player that can really take over a game is PJ Hairston and he is playing less than half the game at 16.7 minutes per night. Against UAB Reggie Bullock played 37 minutes despite having an injury, Leslie McDonald only played 26 despite being on fire offensively and Hairston logged 23, how does that make sense?
Bullock is a very good defender and a terrific shooter but the more I watch him the more I begin to think of him as a role player. He is not a player the team can ask to take over a game and he’s not a player you can count on to get you a big bucket when you need it, he needs to be fed the ball in a good shooting situation to be at his best. Those facts are fine, I like Reggie as a player and he has a big place on this team at the same time he has no business averaging 11 more minutes than Hairston and 10 more than McDonald.
This offense is missing a few things from what we are used to seeing from Tar Heel teams. They don’t get out and run nearly as much and they don’t create off the dribble in the half court and they don’t have nearly as good of a post game as we are used to. I keep hearing it and I keep saying it this is a young team that will develop into a very good team, the talent is there. I say those things because they are all true, but they won’t come true unless the right players are in the game and the rotation is right, at the present time it is not.