UNC basketball program's balanced bench becoming an X-Factor

As the season goes on, the UNC basketball program continues to show that they can win many different ways, including getting production from its bench.
UC Riverside v North Carolina
UC Riverside v North Carolina / Peyton Williams/GettyImages

Hubert Davis is now in his third season at the helm of the UNC basketball program. Davis has said himself that he is always looking for ways to improve as a coach. Substitution patterns are a difficult part of the job when you are at an iconic institution such as North Carolina with a loaded roster. The 2023-2024 season seems to be the year Davis has that figured out.

Looking back on the historic national championship appearance the Tar Heels made in 2021-2022, Hubert Davis was known for playing the "Iron 5". This group consisted of: Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, Leaky Black, Brady Manek and Armando Bacot. Obviously, that group had a ton of success, but North Carolina's bench was not very deep that year. Fatigue proved to be a factor against Kansas in the title game.

Fast forward to this current season, and while Davis seems to have more options, he seems to be a little more strategic with his substitutions than in years past. This is a factor that is being overlooked but is a key part of North Carolina's success.

R.J. Davis and Armando Bacot will continue to play the majority of games but obviously receive a lot of attention from opponents. This means someone else will have to step up on occasion (such as Harrison Ingram did in the Duke game). Even outside of the starters, the UNC basketball program has players who can contribute to every aspect of the game.

Seth Trimble provides lockdown defense and athleticism. He can handle the basketball without turning it over and lead electric fastbreaks. Jalen Washington can score the ball from anywhere on the floor and protect the rim with his height. Jae'Lyn Withers brings more defensive intensity and can guard any position efficiently.

If North Carolina is missing anything off their bench, it is a scoring guard/forward. Paxon Wojcik was hoping to fill that role, but his opportunities appear to be decreasing as the season ages. However, with the versatility of players like Harrison Ingram and Jae'Lyn Withers, Hubert Davis can work the rotation to where at least one outside scoring threat, like Cormac Ryan, can stay on the floor.

We all know what the starting five of this UNC basketball team is capable of. There is a reason that North Carolina sits alone at the top of the ACC standings. The bench production is something to keep a close eye on as we get closer to tournament time. You may not find the results of their effort in the box score, but you will be able to find it in North Carolina's record.

Hubert Davis' in-game coaching adjustment key to UNC basketball's win over Duke. Hubert Davis' in-game coaching adjustment key to UNC basketball's win over Duke. dark. Next