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Leaning on bench strength

UNC improving rotation

A few weeks back I said D’Marco Dunn was North Carolina’s 2nd best defensive player and messaged that I liked the way he was playing. Response: “Hmm…”

Bubble talk.

Since that time, Dunn has missed six games due to injury and returned to contribute over 17 minutes a game, shoot 61 percent from the field, 45 percent from three-point range and is perfect from the free throw line! He has also grabbed 8 rebounds and four steals since returning, while only committing three turnovers and showing his strength on defense. Dunn has clearly taken advantage of his time on the floor and is proving to be a valuable contributor for the Tar Heels.

Injuries force changes

Injuries to starters Pete Nance and Armando Bacot have forced Hubert Davis out of his seemingly too short substitution pattern and opened the floor to more playing time for players like Dontrez Styles. Up to the Louisville game, Styles had gotten less playing time than expected this year. Styles waited patiently for an opportunity to contribute. He did not disappoint on Saturday. Puff Johnson has also seen increased playing time and produced. Jalen Washington has been on the floor more recently and shown promise. While Seth Trimble, Justin McKoy, and Tyler Nickel have seen fairly regular playing time, each has limitations that have been a concern. Trimble and McKoy contribute nicely on defense but have shown limited abilities in providing consistent offense. Nickel has a reputation of being able to score, but struggles on defense, and has not scored enough consistently to offset his lack of defensive presence. Dunn, Styles, Johnson, and Washington have more range in their games to be able to hold up on both ends of the floor.

Every game offers different obstacles. The bottom line, as with any team, is UNC needs players with different strengths to win consistently against the multiple styles of play that they face each game. Players have to adjust within games, make plays and pay attention to how the game is being called. Coaches, including Davis and his assistants, have to do more than speak of the talents and abilities of players that are receiving limited playing time. They have to actually give those players real opportunities to deliver on the floor! Simply trust their own words. Substitution patterns and rotations naturally evolve throughout the season and more often, necessarily, within games. Confidently leaning more on the strengths of the bench will help this team perform more consistently like the team most expected when the season started.

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