The ACC has long been looked at as the standard when it comes to college basketball. This season is no different. North Carolina is once again in good position to challenge at the top of the standings with a 5-1 record through the first few weeks of conference play. Roy Williams’ team is currently tied atop the ACC with the two preseason favorites. They do not have the overwhelming talent of the Duke Blue Devils or the precision of the Virginia Cavaliers. The Tarheels’ depth is their biggest weapon, and they are using it well. The balance of talent between youth and experience runs all the way down the roster. For North Carolina, everyone is getting involved.
North Carolina Tarheels’ Depth is the Key
The youth movement has taken over college basketball in the past decade. Despite many young stars looking to team up at places like Duke and Kentucky, the experience still plays a major role in March. North Carolina has a trio of talented seniors leading the charge this season. Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, and Kenny Williams have been excellent. Each of the three seniors impacts the game differently, a balance that is seen throughout the roster.
Maye, a senior forward from Huntersville, NC, is the quintessential college basketball player. Unheralded out of high school, he has improved each season and has seen his role grow from bench player to team leader. He springboarded off his game-winner against Kentucky in the 2017 NCAA tournament to become an All-ACC player as a junior. His numbers have dipped slightly as a senior, but his impact is the same. Maye is second on the team with 14.4 points per game and leads Carolina with 9.7 rebounds. The 6’7″ forward uses his high basketball IQ to put him in the best positions on the court. He is adept at both cleaning up on the offensive glass and scoring from the perimeter. Consistency is the key to his game. Maye has scored double figures in all but two games this season.
Johnson transferred to North Carolina after two seasons at Pittsburgh. He has been a consistent scorer since arriving in Chapel Hill. This season he leads the team with his 15.5 points per game. The 6’9” wing is shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc and has five 20 point games on the year. Kenny Williams is the glue guy for this team. He does a little bit of everything for Roy Williams’ squad. His nine points and four assists a night don’t jump off the stat sheet, but he provides stable production night in and night out. The biggest key to the Tarheels’ depth is that they can get versatile contributions from so many players.
North Carolina has always been a destination for the top recruits in the country. They have not thrived on one and done talents like some other schools, but that does not mean they are struggling to attract top talent. Coby White and Nassir Little were both top-30 recruits as high school seniors. Now both of them are key contributors to this team. The Tarheels’ depth is spread between freshman and veterans alike, with so many players making an impact.
White has been a huge spark for this team taking over at point guard. He averages 15 points and four assists a night and is capable of huge games offensively. The 6’5” guard hit seven three-pointers while scoring 33 in a loss to Texas earlier in the year. White had his best ACC performance in the Tarheels’ destruction of Virginia Tech. The Goldsboro, NC native had 27 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals. He has the speed to race past defenders, and also the ability to get white hot from the three-point line.
Little was the number three recruit in the country coming out of high school. He is an athletic freak that is still learning how best to use his talents. Coach Williams has Little coming off the bench to provide a spark, and it has been working. The 6’6” wing is averaging 10.6 points and 4.4 rebounds a night. After a slow start to ACC play, he has scored in double figures in each of his last three contests.
Spread It Around
If they want to contend for the ACC title, the Tarheels’ depth will have to continue to shine. North Carolina has a balanced roster, with veteran leadership to help bring along the freshman star power. Ten different guys play double digits minutes each night, with four guys scoring in double figures. Five players have led North Carolina in scoring at least once this season. They average 88 points per game, good for fourth best in the nation. Coach Williams has a lot of options all the way down his bench and has shown he isn’t afraid to use them. The Tarheels play at a lightning fast pace. The abundance of options up and down the roster allows them to overcome both fatigue and foul trouble if either becomes a problem.
This team has all the ingredients of a team that can make serious noise in March. After winning seven of their last eight games, Coach Williams’ team has put itself back in the national conversation. The Tarheels’ depth will be the key to their success. They have a good balance of veterans and youngsters, and everyone knows they need to be ready when called upon. The ACC is a deep league where each night is a battle. Having multiple players that are capable of stepping up on any given night is a luxury most teams don’t have.
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