LAHAINA-Nine Tar Heels played double-figure minutes in Friday night's win at Long Beach State. However, Roy Williams expects that one of the consequences of the three-games-in-three-days format of the Maui Invitational will be a juggled rotation.
"The younger players are going to play more minutes," he said. "You can't just play the starting five for 35 minutes. We're going to play 10, 11 or 12 guys in the first half of every game."
That could be good news for freshman J.P. Tokoto, who logged seven minutes against the 49ers.
Depth could also be an issue because Mississippi State plans to try and run with the Tar Heels. The Bulldogs brought just six scholarship players to Maui because of a combination of injuries and suspensions, but first-year head coach Rick Ray says that won't change the way they play.
"Carolina is never going to change as far as how they push the ball," Ray said. "They're always going to be uptempo. But we want to play fast, too. It's not a situation where we want to slow it down. Any opportunity we have in transition, we want to take advantage, and if those opportunities aren't there, we want to take a good shot."
Recruiting tales: Ray spent time as an assistant coach at Clemson, which put him in the same recruiting territory as the Tar Heels on several players on the current roster. Ray recruited both Brice Johnson and Joel James fairly intensely, and also had an interest in Marcus Paige.
The progress of James, especially, has impressed Ray. "When I saw him on film this year, he was a totally different person than what I saw when we recruited him," Ray said. "He has lost so much weight and looks totally different."
James, of course, has lost 50 pounds since high school. But even when he tipped the scales at over 300 pounds, Ray still thought he would be a player.
"With big guys, half the battle is whether they play hard," Ray said. "If you get big guys who play hard and compete, they will end up being a good player. That's what I saw with Joel, and you could tell he had a work ethic."
James is averaging 6.7 points and 7.0 rebounds (good for second on the team) through his first three college games.
Briefly: Sunday morning's 8 a.m. local time press conference for the eight coaches was mostly a sandbagging event, with most of the comments from the coaches intended to skewer event MC Jay Bilas. Southern Cal head coach Kevin O'Neill came the closest to saying actual constructive things about his team-and he was also the most positive about his squad. "We're excited about our team," he said. "I've told numerous people we have a team full of rejects, starting at the top...I think we have a good team, and I think we're going to be a pretty good team when it's all said and done."...
If anyone would keep track of this, you knew it would be Roy Williams. The Tar Heel head coach claims the winner of the pre-event free throw contest has never also won the basketball tournament. For the record, Marquette's Buzz Williams won Sunday's event, which benefits local charities...Yes, the Tar Heels are in Maui. But there's not a huge amount of free time until Thursday. Carolina practiced around lunchtime Sunday at the Lahaina Civic Center, then had to attend the event banquet on Sunday evening. Most of Monday will be devoted to game preparation for the 1 p.m. local start against Mississippi State....Ray was frank about his team's depleted depth but also made it clear that it didn't change his expectations. "I'm trying to instill in our guys that nobody cares about our situation," he said. "All anyone cares about are the wins and the losses."
Bilas, who has become the unofficial mayor of the Maui Invitational, took some heat from Roy Williams after Bilas said Marquette's Buzz Williams had been to "seven NCAA Tournaments in the last five years." "That's a heck of a record," said Carolina's Williams, who took the microphone after Marquette's Williams. "I was thinking that, but I didn't have the equity to say anything," said Buzz. "Nah, everybody has the equity to say something about Jay," Roy Williams replied. Yep, that's the kind of morning it was at the press conference.