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.
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.