3) Hubert Davis can’t forget about his bench
A troubling trend has emerged in UNC’s last two games. Whereas the team made good use of its bench in the season’s first few weeks, Hubert Davis has retreated to the comfort of playing his starters big minutes against Florida State and UConn.
When the Tar Heels made their improbable run to the national championship game two years ago, they did it on the backs of “the Iron Five,” a lineup composed of RJ Davis, Caleb Love, Leaky Black, Brady Manek, and Armando Bacot. Those five players rarely came off the court in the NCAA Tournament, but their success was not replicable.
That didn’t stop Coach Davis from trying last year. The loss of Brady Manek to graduation created a hole in both talent and chemistry that couldn’t be filled by Pete Nance alone, and though there was plenty of young talent on the bench, the Tar Heels never developed it. It’s no surprise then that D’Marco Dunn, Dontrez Styles, and Puff Johnson all transferred this offseason.
It’s imperative that Davis not make the same mistake twice. Of the Heels’ bench players, only Seth Trimble seems to have the trust of his head coach. I love Trimble and everything he brings to the court, and it was great to see him play alongside Elliot Cadeau while RJ Davis got a breather in the first half, even if it was just for a couple of minutes.
The rest of the bench, though, has been discarded. In a game where Armando Bacot was not at his best, Jalen Washington got only five minutes. Jae’Lyn Withers has been up and down since coming to UNC, but he’ll never got on track if he’s not playing double-digit minutes. Is Paxson Wojcik any good? I have no idea, but I like the little bit I’ve seen of him. Let’s give him a chance.
To win a national title, you need to play 40+ games. It’s a long, tough season, especially once you get to conference play. Carolina has a team that can compete for a title, but to do so, it’ll need contributions from more than just its five starters, and it’ll need those five guys to be fresh in March.
UNC has only three more games the rest of the month, but Carolina fans have to be encouraged by what they’ve seen from the team thus far. The Heels have multiple quality wins, and they still have room to grow. Compared to last year, I’ll take it.