Following the departure of seniors Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson, one of the biggest questions facing North Carolina is who will take the spots the pair once occupied in the starting lineup.
In the Bahamas, head coach Roy Williams went with a starting lineup of Seventh Woods, Kenny Williams, Brandon Robinson, Luke Maye and Sterling Manley, for both games. The lineup decision indicates Williams’ preference for veterans over talented first-years.
Graduate student Cameron Johnson, who underwent arthroscopic hip surgery at the end of last season, did not play, leaving an opening in the lineup. Williams chose to start the junior Robinson in place of highly-touted first-year Nassir Little to fill the hole left by Johnson’s absence. This roster choice is not necessarily indicative of what the coach will decide once the season starts, however. Robinson played 17 minutes but only scored 4 points, while Little posted 11 points in 13 minutes.
Similarly, Williams tabbed junior Woods for the starting point guard spot over first-year Coby White. Woods and White played a similar amount of time in Friday’s game with 19 and 16 minutes, respectively, and first-year Rechon Black played just over 14 minutes, as well. While White scored a team-high 18 points on Friday to Woods’ 11, Woods’ high-flying dunk was the highlight of the weekend.
North Carolina committed 44 turnovers in two games, including a 27-turnover performance against the Bahamas All-Stars on Friday. To put that number into perspective, the Tar Heels averaged 12 turnovers per game in 2017-18, and committed a season-high 19 turnovers in contests against N.C. State and Virginia.
Twenty-seven turnovers is a high number, and the Bahamas All-Stars certainly aren’t as stingy a defense as Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers. However, a certain degree of sloppiness is to be expected during a preseason exhibition.
Plus, with new faces still adjusting to Williams’ offense — which has an especially tough learning curve at point guard — turnovers are inevitable. White, a first-year, and Woods, who is coming off a foot injury that kept him out of 17 games, split time running the offense. Both committed four turnovers in less than 20 minutes of playing time each. Additionally, Little had a team-high six turnovers.
Brandon Huffman had the most eye-catching stat line of any Tar Heel this weekend, posting 20 points and 20 rebounds in only 17 minutes of Saturday’s blowout win. While an impressive performance, it came against weaker competition. In Friday’s game, Huffman managed only 2 points and 8 rebounds in nearly 17 minutes of playing time.
Manley, the starter, was consistent. He followed a 9-point, 13-rebound performance with a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double on Saturday. Garrison Brooks, who started the first 16 games of last season, had an efficient Friday, posting 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
While Huffman’s 20-and-20 sticks out, the most interesting takeaway is Williams’ decision to start Manley for both games. Once the season begins, it will be interesting to see if one of the three can separate and earn a spot in the starting lineup, or whether Williams will slide Maye to center to accommodate an abundance of talent on the wing that includes Johnson and Little.
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