The North Carolina Tar Heels came out against Boston College the other day with a few surprises in their starting lineup. For a majority of the season, Joel James started at the center position while Nate Britt started aside Marcus Paige in the backcourt, but both players were found on the bench to begin last game. In place of James, Jackson Simmons received his first career start, and in place of Britt, Leslie McDonald started at the guard position. Although this came as a huge surprise to many, it was a great decision by head coach Roy Williams.
I have said it before and I am going to say it yet again: Simmons is a no-mistake guy. He is not the most talented of all of the players on the Tar Heels’ roster, but he is certainly an important asset. Do not let his 1.5 points per game fool you, because Simmons is just as vital to this year’s Tar Heel team as anyone else.
After all, in his first career start against Boston College, the Tar Heels came out victorious. Roy Williams is known for making constant substitutions throughout the game, so James still received more of the playing time at the center position, but all of the pressure of being a starter is off of him now. Aside from James, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks can now come into the game without the same pressure, and in the Boston College game they showed just how effective they can be coming off the bench.
With McDonald in the starting lineup, the Tar Heels now have a shooting threat to begin the game. He is by far the best three-point shooter in the lineup, and to be honest, Britt just was not getting it done when he was starting.
He is a very solid guard, don’t get me wrong, but he is still young and needs to be coming off of the bench to improve his play. Paige and Britt have almost the same style of play, so it was smart for Williams to split them up and put in a shooter to the starting lineup.
Now, Paige does not have to shoot several times to begin each game and immediately get cold, because McDonald is right beside him looking for the outlet pass behind the arc.
I am unsure whether or not Williams will stick with this new look lineup for the Tar Heels’ matchup against Virginia tonight, but it would be wise if he did.
Like I said before, the team was successful with this new starting lineup against Boston College, so if it isn’t broken, then why fix it? Virginia will definitely give the Tar Heels a run for their money, so it is going to take an overall balanced team effort for them to be successful.