Are Wildcats in too deep?

With nine players averaging 10 or more minutes in ACC, Tar Heels are a step above
2007-01-27T00:00:00Z Are Wildcats in too deep?By Bruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 27, 2007 12:00 am  • 

The pre-flight dinner was a bit late Thursday evening for North Carolina's basketball team, and an unexpected fuel stop in Oklahoma City didn't help matters, either.

"We got here a little later than I wanted to," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said Friday. "I don't like that."

Oh well. Williams has few other complaints entering a nationally televised showdown this morning with Arizona. Sure, North Carolina had some travel delays, which included trouble loading the bags on the plane, but the fact is that the plane is a chartered jet with all business-class seats.

So even if it did stop halfway across the country, at least the guys were comfortable. The Tar Heels could be crammed into tight 50- or 90-seat commercial regional jets, as the Wildcats often are.

Besides, even if the Tar Heels did actually get a bit tired, it may hardly matter. There are plenty of them to go around.

North Carolina has nine players averaging 10 minutes or more in Atlantic Coast Conference games.

The depth allows the Tar Heels to run an up-tempo style paced by guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, while a pair of intimidating obstacles, Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright, clog the middle. There are good shooters off the bench, too.

There are enough tools that Williams can sit back, rotate in wave after wave of talent and drill most opponents into submission. UNC averages 22 more points per game than its opponents and has beaten its last three ACC foes by an average of 22 points, too.

In short, Williams has luxuries on and off the court, and he knows it.

"I've always thought depth is extremely important when you look over the course of the season," Williams said. "It may not be that important in a single game … (but) the way I look at it, my eighth guy, my ninth guy and my 10th guy may be better than your eighth guy, ninth guy and 10th guy.

"If that's true, then I should try to play a lot of possessions so the eighth, ninth and 10th guy get in the game, which gives us an advantage. So to get there we play a fast tempo and try to get you in foul trouble as well."

North Carolina's eighth player in conference minutes played is Deon Thompson (61.9 field goal shooting in conference games). The ninth is Quentin Thomas (1.9-1 assist-turnover ratio), and the 10th is Wes Miller, who is close to 10 minutes a game at 8.8.

Further, none of this includes injured guard Bobby Frasor, who hit a 30-footer at the halftime buzzer of the Tar Heels' 86-69 rout over UA last season and was averaging 3.25 assists for every turnover per game this season.

Arizona's eighth, ninth and 10th players are Jordan Hill (2.8 points, 2.6 rebounds in Pac-10 games), Nic Wise (three assists, three turnovers, 2-of-10 shooting) and Fendi Onobun (2.2 points, 1.2 rebounds).

What's more, the Tar Heels appear to have adequate buy-in from the players on the team concept. Nobody averages more than Hansbrough's 30.7 minutes per ACC game, yet everyone understands why.

"It's just something that coach does: Everybody kind of understands their minutes," Hansbrough said. "Everybody wants what's good for the team."

But Arizona does have a few factors in its favor today. The Wildcats could get help inside from Bret Brielmaier, who is returning from arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month, while Hill had his best game of the season Wednesday against ASU when starting in place of the suspended Marcus Williams.

"Jordan Hill hadn't played at all … but he was pretty doggone good (Wednesday)," Williams said. "I loved him when I saw him in high school and thought he was going to be a pretty good player."

In addition, both Roy Williams and UA coach Lute Olson said, conditioning shouldn't be as big of a factor today because CBS is televising the game. Pac-10 games on FSN have only 90-second timeouts but CBS sells enough ads to fill tournament-length 2 1/2-minute timeouts.

"The timeouts last 11 minutes and 15 seconds, so everybody gets refreshed," Williams said jokingly. "I have to take a nap during the timeouts."

It's also possible that UNC just might feel the effects of a comfortable yet long trip West. The Tar Heels have played only one true road nonconference game, at St. Louis, so they have five freshmen in their playing rotation who are less tested in hostile environments.

Then again, maybe the travel won't matter. This is North Carolina, after all.

"It was a five-hour flight, which was fine with me," Hansbrough said. "As long as we get to play a real good team like Arizona in a good atmosphere, I'm ready."

Visit StarNet online this afternoon for game updates and later for a slideshow: azstarnet.com/wildcats

Today

• Who: No. 4 North Carolina at No. 17 Arizona

• When: 11 a.m.

• TV: Ch 13

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 1210-AM (Sp.)

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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