UNC Basketball: Dancing around the tough questions

Nov 11, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Hubert Davis looks on against the Charleston Cougars during the second half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 11, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Hubert Davis looks on against the Charleston Cougars during the second half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

When Hubert Davis met with the media on Monday, the UNC basketball head coach danced around some pretty important questions.

The month of February has been a brutal one for the UNC basketball program.

Behind some of the same struggles and issues we’ve seen throughout the season, the Tar Heels have lost five of their six contests during the month, as they are currently on the outside looking in regarding the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Even though some of the same issues keep re-occurring, Hubert Davis continues to dance around some of the important questions at hand.

On Monday, Davis met with the media as part of his weekly scheduled conference. On this week’s Zoom call, the Tar Heels head coach was asked specifically about freshman Jalen Washington, as everyone seems to be curious as to why he (and other reserves) struggle to find a consistent role.

Before we get into Davis’ responses, let’s quickly break down Washington’s play time over the month of February:

February 1 (Pittsburgh)- 3 minutes
February 4 (@ Duke)- 4 minutes
February 7 (@ Wake Forest)- 5 minutes
February 11 (Clemson)- 8 minutes
February 13 (Miami)- 1 minute
February 19 (@ NC State)- DNP

In total, Washington saw just 21 minutes of action over six games (including not even seeing the floor in the Tar Heels’ most recent loss).

The exact question Davis was asked was, “What would you like to see more of from Jalen Washington to have him more of a regular part of the rotation and get more minutes?”

Here’s Davis’ initial response back:

“In regards to everyone on the team, I give everyone opportunities, that’s the type of coach I am. I give guys opportunities to play. I don’t guarantee when, where, or how in the manner in which those opportunities come, but it’s on the player to be ready when your number is called. Jalen’s number has been called and he’s been ready and has done a terrific job out there on the floor.”

In a follow-up question, Davis was asked to specify the things he’d like to see from Washington to elevate his minutes. After a bit of confusion about the question, Davis seemed to dance more around giving a distinct answer.

“He’s got an unbelievable stroke and ability to be able to score in the post, and he can shoot the ball from outside. I know that he hasn’t made a three this year, but I know he can stretch it beyond the arc. Defensively, I think he’s improving every day in terms of how to guard the “5” position and how to guard that hybrid “four” position where those guys are more perimeter-based and resemble more of a perimeter player as opposed to a traditional power forward.”

To me, this didn’t answer the question, not in the slightest.

In this instance, Washington serves as the example of what we’ve been seeing with various bench players. Roles have fluctuated (in some cases drastically, such as D’Marco Dunn) with no clear-cut answer as to why this has been.

The minutes of the bench guys have been scarce to say the least. Tyler Nickel gets on the court for potentially three to four minutes and barely touches the basketball. Seth Trimble, who saw plenty of minutes early on due to his high energy and defensive ability, barely finds his way onto the court. Washington continues to sit (which is mind-boggling considering how bad Pete Nance has been as of late), while Dunn went from sixth man to the forgotten man.

At this point, could it really hurt to see these guys play more?

If Washington is improving so much on both ends of the floor, why is it not translating to more minutes come game day? Typically, doesn’t a player doing well when they get the opportunity (in most cases) lead to more opportunities, not less?

Of course, Armando Bacot rightfully deserves his minutes, but there’s plenty of time for the freshman to spell both Bacot and Nance. The story could be said about other reserves, as they all can bring something to the table to help this team succeed.

Let’s face it: riding the starters isn’t cutting it, and it’s time that they are held accountable.

We see the reserves get quickly removed after making mistakes, ask Puff Johnson, he picked up three early fouls at Pittsburgh and never saw the floor again that night.

I’m not calling for Davis to be fired (as many of you on social media continue to prematurely do), but I am calling for two things: accountability and change.

It may be too late with this group, as they’ve grown accustomed to being able to play through their struggles, but it may be a tough pill to swallow after the season. If you’re one of the reserves, you at least have to strongly consider transferring if you don’t think things will change, and there are at LEAST 5-6 guys who you could understandably see leaving (including Washington).

Hopefully, they stick it out, but we’re not in the old world of college basketball where guys essentially were forced to stay and work their way up the ranks. Now, transferring is very easy, as student-athletes can decide to pack their things to pursue better opportunities for their futures.

I’m sure everyone is tired of this topic, quite frankly, I am too. However, Davis dancing around the question really added more confusion to what has been a mess of a stretch run for the UNC basketball program.

Random Observations: NC State Loss. dark. Next