(Todd Melet)

The tinkering may be over early this season for Roy Williams.

Presumably, Carolina has had a week of tough practices since its blowout loss at Michigan, and tonight’s home game against UNC-Wilmington may feature a more definitive rotation by the Tar Heels. With Gonzaga and Kentucky coming on December 15 and December 22, we may see a more settled lineup playing most of the minutes.

In UNC’s two losses to Texas and Michigan, the most experienced and most talented players have still clearly been better than other combinations Ol’ Roy has tried. So whether it’s a big or small lineup starting, Williams may be subbing less.

Against Michigan, five reserves coming in together – Seventh Woods-Brandon Robinson-Leaky Black-Nassir Little-Sterling Manley – were outscored 14-5 in 3.7 minutes split across both halves. This lineup was beaten 9-2 as part of a 17-2 Michigan run that turned a 10-point deficit into a 5-point lead for the Wolverines.

Carolina’s starting five led 36-34 in 20.2 minutes in Ann Arbor. Non-starting lineups that had been used previously in the season trailed 19-15 in 10 minutes, while new combinations like the one listed above were walloped 31-16 in 9.8 minutes.

With two or three seniors on the court against Michigan, the Heels led 55-53 for 31 minutes. In the nine minutes with less than two seniors on the court, however,UNC lost 31-12 (including 25-10 in 7.7 minutes with no seniors playing).

This has been a trend so far for Carolina. In its toughest match ups so far, four games against Wofford, Texas, UCLA, and Michigan, here are Carolina’s scoring splits by number of seniors on the court: with 3: +12 points in 96 minutes; with 2: +7 points in 34 minutes; with 1: -0.3 in 18 minutes and no seniors: -97 points in 12 minutes.

Look for subs coming in one or two at a time, no matter how poorly the starters and first three subs are playing. The Heels still have a much better chance with them getting most of the minutes. And to beat the top-ranked Zags and No. 9 Wildcats, those eight have to do it.