Lonnie Walker IV's breakout performance was the biggest takeaway from Tuesday's win against Boston University. The heralded recruit from Reading, Pennsylvania was having a slow start to the season, but came alive as he was thrust into the starting lineup as the news of Bruce Brown Jr missing the game due to a hand injury came to light just before tipoff on Tuesday. While the Canes still brought home their eighth consecutive win to start the season, it wasn't a smooth of sailing as you would think for a #10 ranked team taking on a Patriot League opponent. The two teams were tied 30-30 at halftime as the Canes weren't able to create any separation from the poor shooting Terriers. A strong start to the second half gave the Canes some breathing room for the rest of the game, as they went on to win 69-54. Bruce Brown is expected to miss another 2 weeks recovering from his injury, likely keeping him out of action until the start of conference play. When Brown returns, it can be assumed that he'll return to his spot in the starting 5, but if Walker continues to find his stride with the additional minutes and touches, something may have to change with this lineup. Let's take a look at which players that could make way for the talented freshman.
DJ would be my first choice to make way for Lonnie, as both players' ability to stretch the floor is one of the main facets of their game. Walker is definitely the more athletic player out of the two, but DJ has made himself more well-rounded on the offensive end, showing the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket in the last few games. Vasiljevic will never be someone you can ask to defend the opposing team's best player, but his consistent play on the offensive end has created an argument for leaving him in the starting 5.
This seems like a much less likely possibility, as Newton is the lone senior contributor to this young team. The Philly native has not come off the bench since his sophomore year, and is one of the primary ball handlers for the Canes. One of the senior's flaws to his game was his penchant for turning the ball over, which could give validity for a call to move him to the bench, but Newton has done a great job this year of rectifying that issue, cutting down his turnovers from 3.4 per game last season to 2 per game this season. Newton is also being more efficient with less minutes this season, as he has a higher field goal percentage while taking less shots than last year, so I don't believe cutting down his minutes even further would be a wise move. However, if Lonnie Walker is going to play more, those extra minutes have to come from somewhere, so everyone must be looked at.
Bruce Brown Jr.
I acknowledge that this is very farfetched. This is likely only a possibility if the Canes just go on a tear for the next couple games while Brown is out and show amazing team chemistry in the process. If that does happen, it's possible Coach Larranaga may try to ease Brown back into the lineup to keep the momentum going. I don't see this happening, as what the sophomore NBA Draft prospect brings to the game is so valuable to this team. Brown is one of the best rebounding guards in the country (8.6 per game), he creates havoc on the defensive end, and he creates opportunities for the rest of the team on the offensive end (5 assists per game). The Canes were still able to defend well on Tuesday night in Brown's absence, but struggled to score on a mid-major team who gave up 70 points per game coming in.
It's also possible that Lonnie Walker IV returns to the bench upon Bruce Brown Jr.'s return, but I think the fans of Canes Hoops would love it if Walker continued to force the issue with performances like Tuesday night's line of 26 points on 9/15 shooting, and 7 rebounds. A meniscus injury over the summer may have delayed his ascension in the Canes lineup, but we may be witnessing one of the nation's top freshman come into his own before at just the right time.