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.