UNC Basketball: Coach Roy Williams’ Subbing Patterns Are Erroneous


When I watched the North Carolina versus North Carolina State game on this past Saturday night, I was wondering why Roy was playing certain players. I understand that some players may perform better in practice when compared to others. On the other hand, there are some players who perform better in games in comparison to practices. I have written about Brice Johnson on several occasions this season. At the beginning of the season, I said that he was better than James McAdoo offensively (see UNC Basketball: Is Brice Johnson Worthy Of Being A Starter?!). I have stood by this perspective since I made this statement.

Jan 26, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward T.J. Warren (24) dribbles as North Carolina Tar Heels guard P.J. Hairston (15) defends during the first half at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

It is becoming more and more apparent that Roy is still testing different lineups to see which players perform better with others. Carolina is halfway through their season and Roy is still experimenting with lineups. This is not a good sign. Let’s look that the game against N.C. State. McAdoo played horribly in the first half. The 6th man off the bench was Brice Johnson. After Carolina takes over the momentum of the game when the score was 18-22, Roy pulls Johnson out of the game and re-inserts McAdoo. I am not blaming McAdoo for the 20-2 run the Wolfpack put on the Tar Heels. But, I will say that this was the turning point of the entire game. I am firm believer of going with who is hot. Brice was playing well in the first half. Another alarming statistic is that Brice only played 10 minutes.

Roy seems dead-set on McAdoo being the go-to guy when he is average at best on the offensive. Your best player should not have a 46% field goal percentage and a 59% free throw percentage. In case you did not know, these are McAdoo’s stats. In my opinion, it is not smart to rely on someone so heavily when they have under-performed. I think McAdoo would perform well coming the bench sometimes (again see UNC Basketball: Is Brice Johnson Worthy Of Being A Starter?!).  This way, he gets to see the game unfold better. Coming off the bench should not be viewed as a demotion of any sort. Last season, Syracuse’s best player and leading scorer was Dion Waiters, who happened to be the sixth man. Waiters’ star power was noticed by NBA executives, which is why he was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. For Tar Heel Nation, look back at the 2008 Heels. You could argue strongly that Danny Green was the second or third most important player on that team next to Tyler Hansbrough and Tywon Lawson. He was the sixth man, and played three positions. The 2008 Carolina team has the UNC record for most victories in a season (36). This is not a coincidence.

Many people are calling for P.J. Hairston to start at the shooting guard position. While I agree with this, the second team also needs a scorer from the perimeter to go along with Brice Johnson. Leslie McDonald will be coming back from his suspension soon, so I expect for him take some minutes from Jackson Simmons, Desmond Hubert and Joel James. J.P. Tokoto is gradually coming into his own. The question mark remains with Hairston, though. Against N.C. State, P.J. scored 19 points in 17 minutes. Sure, he made three turnovers; however, so did Marcus Paige (played 29 minutes) and Luke Jackson (played six minutes). I heard that Roy pulled P.J. due to his mistakes, but he left UNC’s third leading scorer on the bench for a long time. When Carolina made their run in the second half, the power forward was P.J. Hairston. Carolina trimmed a 28 point deficit down to five points. However, it was too little too late. Roy inserted P.J. back in the game with seven or eight minutes left in the game when he could have used the “quick lineup” earlier in the second half.

If you recall in the loss against Butler, P.J. manned the four spot when Carolina cut a 27 point lead down to 6 points. Again, it is no coincidence that P.J. was UNC’s leading scorer against Butler with 15 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes of play. Also in this game, McAdoo played 31 minutes but finished the game with 10 points (5 of 11 shooting), five rebounds, and seven turnovers whereas Johnson had six points (3 out of 3 field goals), one rebound and one turnover in 12 minutes of play. When I look at these losses, there seems to be a pattern: the better-performing players getting lesser minutes, inconsistent substitution patterns, and coming from behind with a deficit close to 30 points. Carolina has a really good team; however, they have no direction which comes from the coach. I hope that no one transfers after this season, because Carolina is sizing up to be a powerhouse during the 2013-2014. Until that season takes place, players need to be fed playing time now because as former N.C. State player Julius Hodge has stated, “When you’re hungry, you gotta eat.”