Friday, January 20, 2012

UNC guard Dexter Strickland lost for season: analysis

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina junior guard Dexter Strickland suffered a torn ACL on Thursday night in the second half of the Tar Heels' 82-68 victory at Virginia Tech. What does the injury mean to UNC going forward?

Some thoughts and analysis:

--First the good news: There's no good time for a team to suffer a personnel loss like this - or any loss, for that matter - but UNC does have some time to figure things out. The Tar Heels don't play a game this weekend and they don't play Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, either. UNC is off until it hosts N.C. State at the Smith Center next Thursday night. Thanks a scheduling quirk, the Tar Heels literally couldn't have more time than they do right now to figure out how best to fill Strickland's void.

--Speaking of which. Strickland started all 19 of UNC's games this season. It's no secret who the options to replace him will be. Sophomore Reggie Bullock is the team's fourth-leading scorer, with 8.4 points per game. Freshman P.J. Hairston, meanwhile, has averaged 7.5 points per game. Hairston is the more potent scoring option. His 7.5 points per game have come in an average of 13.2 minutes per game. Bullock, meanwhile, is averaging 8.4 points per game in 18.8 minutes per game.

--But, of course, UNC won't miss Strickland necessarily because of the offense he provided. Strickland was averaging 7.5 points per game. But he was tied for the team lead in steals, with 25. Strickland has been UNC's best perimeter defender this season and, because of that, his replacement in the starting lineup will likely have to be a strong defender. Which gives Bullock a significant advantage over Hairston, who's still developing defensively. After the victory at Virginia Tech on Thursday night, UNC coach Roy Williams raved about Bullock's defense.

--For UNC, the worst part about losing Strickland might be this: Now the Tar Heels don't really have a backup point guard. Strickland had been filling in at the point at times for Kendall Marshall. When Marshall needed a short rest, Strickland was capable of running the offense. Without Strickland, though, who is even available to provide Marshall with the occasional rest? Freshman Stilman White has played a minute or two here and there but he hasn't been asked to produce amid pressure. White is averaging 4.3 minutes of playing time per game. Justin Watts, a senior guard, has averaged 5.6 minutes per game but he's likely to see his playing time increase.

--It's natural to wonder whether Strickland's injury will have any effect on the decision to redshirt Leslie McDonald, who suffered a knee injury of his own during the summer. Still, it appears unlikely that McDonald would be rushed back because of Strickland's injury. For one, McDonald and Strickland are different players. While McDonald would add depth to the backcourt, he wouldn't fill the defensive void left by Strickland, nor would McDonald be able to assist Marshall at point guard. Plus, with 12 regular-season games left to play, would it really be worth it for McDonald to rush back? And would McDonald even be ready to contribute if he were to come back?

--Bottom line: The loss of Strickland is a difficult blow for the Tar Heels. They now basically have a seven-man rotation, unless Watts or White takes on a larger role. And among UNC's top seven players, freshman James Michael McAdoo is still very much finding his way. The loss of Strickland hurts UNC's defense, and also makes Marshall more valuable than ever, given that he's now without a backup.

-- Andrew Carter


cost per head said...

I think that the loss of Dexter Strickland was a very sensible hit for UNC because that guy was playing so well and UNC really needed him in those games