Every Roy Williams team tries to hit the same notes: run the fast break, have a solid point guard, look for the high-low pass and throw the ball to the post early and often. The key to making this system work — especially against a long, physical team like Duke — is a dominant player at either the power forward or center position.
Luke Maye provides value in his shooting and rebounding, but the 6-foot-8 forward is limited in the post due to his size and shouldn’t be counted on against a player like Zion Williamson or even Marques Bolden. The key to playing how UNC would like lies with its traditional starting big, Garrison Brooks.
Filling in for the head coach on Roy Williams Live, director of operations for the men's basketball team Sean May admitted he thinks the 6-foot-9 sophomore has been playing out of his true position this season. But Brooks still provides a physical presence capable of receiving and converting high-low passes and drop offs from driving players.
Brooks is also limited in the post, lacking the footwork and touch to make post-ups a reliable source of offense for UNC right now. But what he does well is exactly what North Carolina needs.
Brooks has the second highest offensive rating on the team among players playing major minutes in games through Feb. 15, sitting at 123.5, behind only Cameron Johnson. He’s an outlet under the basket for players like Maye or Coby White, who handle most of the shot creation on the team, just like Brandon Robinson is an outlet on the perimeter.
Duke has one of the most impressive shot-blockers in the nation with Williamson, along with the taller, longer Bolden. Brooks will have to convert his opportunities when he gets them to make the most of his time on the court. He’ll also have to avoid turnovers on post ups against what may be the best transition offense in college basketball.
Defensively, Brooks will have to avoid fouling at the rate he normally does. With Sterling Manley still out and Brandon Huffman still a raw talent, North Carolina doesn’t have the size to keep up with Duke if Brooks isn’t on the floor.
The sophomore forward will have to keep Williamson from snagging offensive rebounds, stopping guard R.J. Barrett from driving all the way to the rim and stand his ground in the post against Bolden.
Duke is one of the most talented teams in the country and to come away with a victory North Carolina will need Brooks to step up to the challenge.
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