We went small. It really isn’t a surprise to me that it took Roy Williams this long to switch to a smaller starting line-up. I would never assume to know what Coach Williams is thinking. What I’m attempting to do is not tell you what he is or was thinking. What I will do is give you what I think.
I probably wouldn’t have gone small before the Duke game either. I know there was a growing pressure to change up something, but let’s be honest. It’s not like there was one glaring weakness on the team like there was before our ticket to the NCAA tournament started and our guaranteed NIT bid took his talents (ha!) to LA. Then, I think Coach was wagering on experience. Developing talent won out.
For the fast break (or up-tempo or whatever you want to call the offense run by Carolina) to work effectively, you really generate turnovers and defensive rebounds. Going small really doesn’t help a lot with the second category. There’s also a real concern that you will get bullied inside in the NCAA tournament. Especially with younger bigs, this would be a big concern of mine. Though if you don’t make the NCAA tournament, then preparing for it doesn’t really make sense.
The tipping point for me would be to look at team chemistry. This team is streaky. Especially if you consider going with 3 to 4 guards on the floor at any given time. You’re relying a lot on jump shots. If your team is actively being aggressive, taking the ball to the hoop, drawing fouls, *cough cough* making foul shots, then it can work. If your team is settling for early jump shots, contested jump shots, not getting foul calls, missing free throws, turning the ball over, or getting outmuscled inside, then it isn’t a smart move. If you do the opposite of all those things, then you look like a genius. Roy bet on PJ bringing touch and toughness. He has done both. Really good bet.
I guess the question is, how does this decision effect your team next year? Do you even think about that, or do you look at this year and say “Let’s just win all we can now.” In my opinion, and I’m willing to wager all I have on this, Roy puts out the team each and every night he thinks will have the best shot of winning that game. Next year’s team, the development and game time of the players that may be key to that team is an issue for Future Roy to deal with, not Present Roy.
This team has evolved greatly since the beginning of the season. As this team evolves, the starting line-up rightly changed. I think it changed when it needed to. The timing of that change, followed by a great coaching performance by Roy in the Duke game actually had us looking like the better team for 30 of the 40 minutes.
I’m telling you I don’t think this line-up works earlier in the year. I do think it is our best line-up now. I reserve the right to change my mind the second we come up against a great rebounding team.