Dexter Strickland Out For The Season With Torn ACLPosted by KCarpenter on January 20th, 2012
Bad news out of Chapel Hill: North Carolina starting shooting guard, back-up point guard, and designated defensive stopper Dexter Strickland tore his ACL in last night’s game against Virginia Tech. Things looked pretty bad when Strickland landed funny and fell to the ground, grabbing his knee and yelling in pain. Confirmation came late today that he had torn the ligament and will be out for the season.
Fortunately for Roy Williams, the Tar Heels are stocked with skilled shooting guards and Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston are more than capable of effectively filling Strickland’s shoes. The trickier questions are how badly the Tar Heels will miss Strickland on defense and who will spell Marshall as back-up lead guard? In terms of defense, the Tar Heels might actually be pleasantly surprised: Bullock, as well as being offensively capable, has been a skilled and stalwart defender. The defensive box scores compiled by Adrian Atkinson at Tobacco Road Blues demonstrate that Bullock has been really great on that end. This development, coupled with what appears to be genuinely improved defense by Marshall bodes well for North Carolina’s perimeter protection.
Of the many roles Strickland played, the place where he will probably be missed the most is as Marshall’s backup point guard. Freshman Stilman White is next on the depth chart, but he’s gotten relatively little live-game experience (particularly in meaningful minutes), averaging only 4.3 MPG. He hasn’t demonstrated a particular talent for defense (in fact he might be the worst perimeter defender on the team), while shooting a miserable 16.7% from the field. Looking at tempo-free stats, he has on the other hand demonstrated a talent for play-making. His current assist percentage of 24.4% is ninth in the ACC, while posting a very good turnover percentage mark of 12.7%. It’s quite possible that White will raise his play when given the minutes, but Williams might want to consider some non-traditional solutions for lead play-maker. I have no idea what these solutions are (John Henson as point-forward?), but some outside the box thinking might be in order.
It’s a real shame too, because Strickland was in the midst of a very odd breakout season. Embracing the role of defender and facilitator, the speedy guard had reached new heights of efficiency, picking his spots and shooting 57.6% from the field, a ridiculously high number for a guard. His offensive efficiency had reached a career-best mark of 110.2 while he was as focused on defense as ever. Running the second unit as the point guard, he was an effective fiery counterpoint to Kendall Marshall‘s more deliberate style. For his part, Strickland is at least putting on a good face about the surely disappointing injury. He’ll certainly have the chance for a comeback for his senior year, but for now, the Tar Heels have to look to the immediate future.