UNC Basketball: Readdressing the Rotations

I’m getting pretty sick and tired of writing these articles Tar Heel Nation.  If I’ve said it once I’ve said it 1,000 times, I am a huge fan and supporter of UNC head coach Roy Williams.  At the beginning of the season it’s understandable to tinker with your rotations, play guys because you want to develop them, experiment and see what different combinations get you.  But this is getting ridiculous folks.  Roy Williams is not putting his best starting lineup on the floor and he’s not playing his best players nearly enough minutes while showing way too much favoritism towards others who are not performing.  With Saturdays loss to NC State, UNC is now 13-6 overall and 3-3 in the conference, time for things to change and change now.

Jan 26, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Desmond Hubert (14) and teammates Joel James (0) , J.P. Tokoto (25) , Luke Davis (4) Brice Johnson (11) and Jackson Simmons (21) look on from the bench during the second half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at PNC Arena. North Carolina State won 91-83. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Starting Five: UNC’s bench outscored its starting five, 47-36, on Saturday.  Roy stated earlier in the week that he had threatened to pull both Paige and Strickland from the starting lineup several weeks ago due to poor defensive grades.  My question is simple, if Strickland is having poor defensive grades, what exactly is his contributing to this team?  Bad shot selection?  Poor shooting percentage?  He’s a backup point guard period, sit him on the bench to start the games, have him back up Paige and be an emergency case shooting guard.  Give those minutes to Hairston, Leslie McDonald and J.P. Tokoto, after all those three names represent the three best perimeter players on the team not named Reggie Bullock.

Desmond Hubert is offensively inept and isn’t a player who normally would even be in the rotation at Carolina.  So why is he starting and giving UNC two offensively challenged players among the starting five?  It doesn’t make sense, start either Brice Johnson or Joel James and get get someone in the lineup that has a competent offensive game.  The starting lineup should be Paige at the point, Hairston and Bullock on the wings, McAdoo and one of the freshman inside period.

P.J. Hairston:  When asked why he played just 17 minutes, seven after halftime on Saturday, Hairston responded “I have no clue”.  Roy substituted him and Tokoto during the last few minutes of the game in an offense/defense switch.  If anyone says to me that Hairston isn’t playing more minutes because of his defense I’m going to throw up, literally.  As stated above, Strickland isn’t playing good defense, nor is he scoring, so let’s go with the guy who scores, rebounds and plays with high energy that the team feeds off of shall we?

Moves that make zero sense:  Hairston entered the game in the second half around the 16 minute mark, he turned the ball over one time and was pulled less than one minute later and didn’t return for over nine minutes.  Strickland is averaging over 26 minutes per game after taking bad shot after bad shot and giving the team little to nothing offensively and he isn’t playing nearly the type of defense he did as a sophomore and junior, so again, why is he playing so much?  And why isn’t Hairston given the opportunity to play through a mistake?

Jackson Simmons played 15 minutes Saturday night, more than Joel James (13 mins) and Brice Johnson (10 mins).  Simmons got pushed around defensively by C.J. Leslie and everybody else who came after him, sure he scored six points on 3-3 shooting and grabbed three boards, if anybody on planet Earth that has actually watched UNC this year thinks he is on the same level as either James or especially Johnson, well the only thing I have to say to you is I’m sorry you feel that way and please don’t tell others, you will look and sound stupid.  Then the curious case of Luke Davis, why in the world did he play against NC State?  Davis played five minutes with Simmons in the lineup putting two pretty much walk on level players against a top 20 team.  The team committed six turnovers during Davis’ five minutes, three of which were by Davis himself, I wonder what was going through Hairstons mind as he watched this unfold.

When I was complaining about this on Twitter many fans responded that Roy needed to send a message and the players I wanted in the game weren’t doing anything anyway.  My response to that is simple, if you want to send a message fine but don’t let it be the reason you lose games.  And how about this for a message to recruits, UNC plays the best players and they play to win games.  Send messages during practice.  Players pretty much refused to get back on defense against State, so put away the basketballs Sunday and tell them to run until they vomit.  My high school coach did it, and you know what, if I did anything I made sure I ran at full speed while I was on the court and I made for sure never, ever to jog or look lazy on defense.  If Roy wants to send a message it’s time to send a message that the NIT isn’t good enough for Carolina and no matter who’s feelings it hurts we’re here to get to the big dance and we’ll do whatever we have to do to get there.

The simple answers: This should be obvious to Roy Williams and I’m sure many of you will read this and say well duh that’s what UNC needs to do, but since Carolina’s head coach doesn’t seem to understand it I’m going to spell it out in lamens terms here.  Make the changes to the starting five laid out above, get players on the floor that can score and stop playing both PGs together in the starting lineup.  Make Leslie McDonald the sixth man when he returns and go with a nine man rotation.  The starting five of Paige/Hairston/Bullock/McAdoo and either James or Johnson.  The four bench players should be Strickland as the backup PG, McDonald and Tokoto as the backup wings, and either James or Johnson, whomever doesn’t start.  If you want to run Hubert and Jackson Simmons on the court for a couple minutes per game, do it when the team is far ahead and literally make it a couple minutes.

A lot of the examples I used in this article were of the NC State game, this has been going on all season and we’re 19 games into the season, developing players is over, the early season excuses are behind us, this has been going on all year and it needs to end.

If you read this and said to yourself wow, Matt usually supports Roy Williams and doesn’t typically write articles with this type of negative tone, first, thank you for paying attention, second, you are right but I have had it up to my wits end, it’s time for a change, it’s time to do what is necessary to win games and get this team to the NCAA Tournament.  This team is far too talented to play in the NIT and far too talented to be 13-6 and 3-3 in the ACC, make the necessary changes Roy.

Topics: North Carolina Tar Heels, Roy Williams

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  • Mikebiz

    You’re hating. Simmons has played really well in the little bit of time he’s gotten. Put up the effort that more talented players have failed to show.
    Can’t agree more about Strickland though, he’s too much of an offensive liability and his defense has been lacking anyways. I’ve wondered why he’s started at all.

    • Keeping_It_Heel

      he played 15 mins, more than Brice and Joel, got manhandled by Leslie. I like it him but it didn’t make sense to play him that much

      • http://twitter.com/MandMSportshow M & M Sports Show

        He got dunked on but he was 3-3 for the night. He did not rebound enough but who did? Richard Howell was a man out there. Our lack of defense on TJ Warren was most disappointing.

        • Keeping_It_Heel

          agree he wasn’t perfect but he def deserves more than 10 mins, especially if we’re playing Simmons 15

          • Craig Roberts

            Why are we not use in Joel James down low

        • Sam

          Yeah but maybe we didnt rebound bc we dont have our 6’10″ 260 center in the game more than 13 mins!!!

        • Craig Roberts

          We need page up 1 Mac to do it for James at 5 blocking Hairston starting hands down let’s see what happens

    • http://twitter.com/MandMSportshow M & M Sports Show

      Venting would be the word, not hate. Frustration as well. Strickland limitations used to be offset some by defense, but that has not been good lately.

      • Keeping_It_Heel

        exactly, and honestly some of it is frustration but I honestly believe this is just blunt honesty. We need to play our best players period.

  • Michael

    “laments terms”

    Classic

    • Keeping_It_Heel

      lol thanks how did that T slip in?

  • Derek Ball

    Amen but simmons earned some PT albeit spot minutes but no one can tell me hairston shouldnt be playing 30 mins a game!!

    • Keeping_It_Heel

      def he’s earned some PT, emphasis on some, not more than Johnson and James

  • Heelfan82

    Regarding Simmons: He earns his time with hustle, rebounding etc…when others are not playing with the “basics.” Also, Simmons was the receiving end of a dunk bc JMM lost his man, he was helpside D. In my opinion that Strickland starts to help Paige handle the ball. Look at Paige’s stats…not impressive. In fact, the last I looked they had about the same amount of assists with Paige having more T.O.s. I also think Paige’s shooting stats are horrible (combo of poor shot selection/missing open shots). neither have great decision making skills. I grit my teeth everytime Marcus drives in the lane; the same way I do when Dex does a fade away. My point is that we have issues at the PG spot. The result is that Hairston doesn’t start. I think you need your best assist/turnover guy with the remaining best 4 players. That would include Hairston and exclude Hubert.

    • Keeping_It_Heel

      I agree Simmons has earned some time, but not more than more capable players like Brice Johnson. As for Dex starting, he gives us nothing offensively an isn’t the same defender anymore. Would be better for the team if he came off the bench and we could have a fresh PG in the game more often. Even if Hairston doesn’t start 17 mins?

      • Heelfan82

        Right, I agree with most everything, just trying to give a possible alternative as to why this is happening. I think Roy uses Simmons as learning moments for Brice when he walks/jogs down court or whatever else he’s not happy with. Should play limited role, I agree.
        Dex hasn’t showed the old Dex, just flashes of him. My theory ties into what the New York Knicks are doing with Felton and Kidd. Many argue that JR Smith or Amare should start. JR is an explosive scorer and I think the style of play is similar to PJ. The ball movement is better when Felton and Kidd play together. Strickland is no J Kidd-but the point may be to mentor Paige and help him develop and get ready to be the PG of the future. We all know that PG play is crucial to UNC sucess; when Paige plays bad, it seems the whole team goes crazy. Dex has actually played ok but fades in games and makes poor ISO decisions when it’s not his game.
        IDK what the answer is but like the guy posted above, we do not know the whole picture. I have seen some posts about PJs limited minutes and an explanation behind it. I agree PJ should play more and I don’t think anyone can disagree with that.
        I will try to remain positive and cheer on my favorite team. I would imagine it is very difficult to play/coach in Chapel Hill with all the critics in a down year. Paige has developed into a good defender and JMM appears to be back.

  • coachj

    Keep in mind all you know is the little bit you see on the floor. you have no idea what goes on on an ongoing basis and your disgust needs to be tempered by understanding that you really don’t have enough information to formulate your conclusions. Also, I think with every loss, all of you get overwrought and go off the deep-end a bit. These are young players learning to develop their games. JMM is not even close to what we all expected him to be. Reggie hasn’t taken over and PJ, while you think he is so great, seems to be really inconsistent with his play. So, what do you expect?Chill out, relax, take a pill. Try to enjoy things a bit. You cannot expect to roll through the competition every single game.

    • Keeping_It_Heel

      I get what you are saying and respect this point of view. I’m okay with losses and truly this has been a fun season to watch this team grow. However my view on this rotation isn’t just my own. Many other outlets are pointing to the same thing and I would venture to say the majority of the fanbase as well. You are absolutely right and it’s a good point that I am not watching practices. Still, we all know what we’re seeing on the court and Dexter Strickland is simply not getting it done offensively or defensively. The team is losing and is now on the bubble for the tournament, time for a change IMO.

      • coachj

        You are using media outlets as a source for credible thoughts on x-o basketball??? You are saying that because all the other media idiots say it, that it must be true. Sorry, I am sticking with the guy that has won 2 championships, 6 final fours, and 689 games. Whatever you may think, there are reasons and Coach Williams does not need to explain to the fans or the media why. You know, part of this might just be showing the younger guys, and the future recruits that when you sign here, you aren’t going to get thrown under the bus simply because someone else is sexier.. Frankly, I love what PJ has done this year – he has come a long way. But he is inconsistent. Leslie has really screwed his season up. So I am not sure that either of them should get the nod over Dexter. It is kind of like the situation with Hubert. But Roy is proving that despite his anemic offense, he is a factor on the defensive end and the freshman are not ready to carry the load all by themselves.

  • Brian

    I agree with you completely. I usually defend Roy to all my UNC buddies, but no more! I read his Monday press conference quotes. PJ has not got much playing time bc of Gould trouble and JPs better play. He’s not even considered that Strickland’s play Is deserving of less time, that should go to PJ. He also pointed out that he got beat for a loose ball and that’s why he sat out so long on the second half. The five starters that refused to run back on D in the first half I guess get a pass? I would not be opposed to Dexter starting at point. He could focus on pg duties as he is leading ACC in assist/to ratio. Maybe then he’d quit shooting jumpers! Also, he is more poised in hostile environments

    • Keeping_It_Heel

      I found this very, very disturbing also. Tokoto has certainly gained some PT but why is it at Hairstons expense? How about we take out the least effective player in Dex? I wish someone would have asked that question

      • Brian

        I am afraid if someone did ask that question, it would only make him more staunch in his position. Though I still would love to hear his explanation.

        • Keeping_It_Heel

          good point, hope to chat with you more in the KIH Forums Brian!

  • Sam

    Really agree with you. I dont understand why PJ is in the dog house. He has improved his defense and shot selection and makes effort plays all the time. He works pretty hard to only play 17 mins with that talent and when him and bullock are on the floor together the team feeds off their shooting. And Hubert over Joel makes little sense. I like what I have seen whenever James in on the court but he doesnt even get 20 mins a game to prove himself. If this talented roster cannot be a top 10 team and Oregon and Butler can you have to question the decisions Roy is making

    • Keeping_It_Heel

      thank you, hope to chat with you more in the KIH Forums Sam!