Will UNC Wear Down? Roy Williams Sticks to His A-Team So Far…

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2011

It’s no secret that Roy Williams likes to use large rotations. Most of last year he rotated full lineups with frequency, and it wasn’t new to last year. If you look at his national championship teams from 2004-05 and 2008-09, only one player averaged thirty minutes a game for each team (Raymond Felton and Wayne Ellington). Ty Lawson’s toe injury probably kept him from being another player at around 30 minutes a game. Last year Williams expanded his rotation from eight players to nine (I’m only counting Larry Drew II and Justin Watts as one player), with only Harrison Barnes averaging 30 minutes a game.

Roy Williams is Relying on his Starters more this Season

But in the game against UNC Asheville Sunday, every Tar Heel starter logged at least 30 minutes. In that game, James McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston all played close to ten minutes, but in two games Williams hasn’t been nearly as open with his rotations as in years past. Whether Williams’ change in strategy was due to a pesky UNCA team that just wouldn’t go away, or wanting to test his starters’ conditioning with the quick turnaround from the Carrier Classic (where the North Carolina starters all also played 30 minutes), is unknown. But especially for a game against a low major team, North Carolina’s reliance on its starters is interesting thus far.

The only starter most analysts claim is irreplaceable is point guard Kendall Marshall, but I expected Barnes to average big minutes coming into the season too. However, the primary reason Williams uses such large rotations is because his offense requires a breakneck pace. Fatigue isn’t a big deal in the regular season when games are spaced fairly evenly. However, during the postseason — when you could play three games in three days (the ACC Tournament) followed by two consecutive days with games each week for the NCAA Tournament–that concern is more than legitimate.

We saw stints of the Tar Heels running halfcourt sets over the weekend, which begs the question: “Will a Roy Williams team slow its pace down this year?” If he doesn’t trust the second half of his rotation a little more soon, the team might have to.

(h/t @ACCSports)

mpatton (576 Posts)

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2 responses to “Will UNC Wear Down? Roy Williams Sticks to His A-Team So Far…”

  1. KCarpenter says:

    At the press conference after the game, Roy seemed frustrated at himself for not giving more minutes to the bench. He mentioned that he expected to increase the minutes in subsequent game. There was also a tiny bit of foul trouble for the three guys.

    So far, freshmen Simmons and White have mostly been relegated to garbage time. Hubert has gotten a few more meaningful minutes, but for whatever reason, Roy seems to like using 6’5″ Watts as his fourth big.

  2. I think the week off between UNCA and Mississippi Valley State may have something to do with the odd distribution of minutes as well. There’s less worry about wearing the starters out when they get seven days of rest.

    In Roy Williams’ time at UNC, they’ve never before opened the season with an opponent the caliber of Michigan State, so that (plus the odd circumstances) explain playing time in San Diego.

    UNC also has a longer stretch of home games against low-level opponents leading up to conference play. I’m assuming that right now Roy Williams is anticipating playing reserves a lot in those games.

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