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.

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

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.