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Duke-UNC In The 2022 Final Four: What About Bench Play?

Neither team is deep but Duke has a slight advantage here.

State Farm Champions Classic - Kentucky v Duke
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 09: Theo John #12 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks the ball as Trevor Keels #1 celebrates against the Kentucky Wildcats during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 09, 2021 in New York City.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

One of the things that people always talk about when a big game comes up is bench play. That’s going to be more difficult in the case of Duke-UNC in the Final Four because neither team is very deep.

Duke has started Wendell Moore, Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams, AJ Griffin and either Jeremy Roach or Trevor Keels for most of the season.

The bench right now is basically Keels and Theo John. Joey Baker was getting double digit minutes in January but lately he hasn’t played much, getting just 16 minutes since the regular season ended. Bates Jones has played spot minutes.

UNC is probably thinner.

The starters all play between 29.4 and 33.9 minutes. Dawson Garcia and Anthony Harris were both in the rotation but both left the team, apparently planning to return next year (Garcia has a family medical crisis while Harris just has to do more rehab as best we can tell).

UNC totally controlled Saint Peter’s, but even so, only Puff Johnson got more than one minute off the bench, scoring two points.

Against UCLA, Johnson got 10 minutes while Dontrez Styles got five. UNC got two points from them.

Only Baylor saw extensive bench help for the Tar Heels, with Styles getting 25 minutes, Justin McKoy getting 10 and Johnson six and combining for 13 points, six rebounds, two steals and five turnovers.

Of course in that game, Brady Manek was ejected with 10:08 to go and only played 28 minutes and Caleb Love fouled out not long after.

Clearly, Davis would prefer to stick with his starters as much as possible. As we saw against Baylor, that could be a problem.

Duke’s in somewhat of a better situation. There is a clearly defined rotation with Williams and John and Keels can come in for Roach, Moore or Griffin with no real drop off.

Needless to say foul trouble or an injury would probably redefine this game.