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UNC Basketball: Depth Issues

In the words of Cute Is What We Aim For, “... it’s so hard when you’re shallow as a shower.”

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve always had a slight fear of truly deep water. When snorkeling or even simply walking through ankle-deep water on the sound side of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, getting too close to a channel or a sudden change in depth makes my breath catch, as if swimming out over those murky fathoms will cause me to forget how to swim entirely. The fear of the unknown lurking below the sun’s ability to penetrate combined with the irrational thought that the deeper water is somehow less buoyant combine to make a powerful deterrent. There’s a reason my illustrious lifeguarding career began and ended at my local pool. You could say I had depth issues.

That being said, did you know it’s possible to drown in three inches of water?

Earlier this week, the Tar Heels beat a down Notre Dame team by four points, on the road in South Bend. My first feeling was relief; y’all, it’s good just to win one. If I had held that in my mind, simply enjoying the final result without examining the molars of that particular gift horse, I might have been able to enjoy it for longer than fifteen minutes. I could look forward to tomorrow’s matchup with a Virginia squad fresh off a drubbing at the hands of Boston College; after all, every win streak starts with one. Then I looked at the box score.

Carolina’s bench scored two points. A Puff Johnson jumper midway through the second half is all that kept the Tar Heel reserves from being skunked. Notre Dame counted 23 points off the bench; if the Fighting Irish starting five had been able to keep up with the five from Chapel Hill, this game would have gotten ugly in a hurry.

That’s easy math to do—obviously if the starters score roughly the same and there’s such a discrepancy between bench points, the team with better bench production will win. I’m getting close to John Madden territory, but I think it bears saying plainly. I recognize that Notre Dame’s starters scoring more means less shots for reserves, et cetera, but this figure pops off the score sheet in a uniquely nasty way.

Good news, though; if the Heels are drowning in those aforementioned three inches of water, the Cavaliers aren’t exactly floating. In the last three games against BC, Notre Dame, and Louisville, the UVA bench has accounted for eight, three, and ten points respectively. If either team needs to rely on reserves in tomorrow night’s matchup, it’ll be sink or swim, and if the Heels bring all the bricks from Wednesday night’s 2-23 three-point performance that’ll make it hard to remain above water.

I worry that diving any deeper into this subject will only cause further shortness of breath, so I’ll float on about my day with the hope that the Heels are able to make a splash with an unexpected win streak heading into what little postseason there may be.