After nine minutes of action on Monday evening, the North Carolina Tar Heels looked out of sorts. Roy Williams’ team, playing at home against a quality opponent in Virginia Tech, was expected to win (at least according to Las Vegas) but North Carolina trailed by a 22-13 margin and looked to be in at least theoretical danger of an upset loss.
31 minutes later, the Tar Heels picked up a runaway 103-82 victory and, by the end, it was virtually unthinkable that the favorites were ever in peril. Along the way, North Carolina received big-time contributions from Coby White (27 points, seven rebounds, six assists), Luke Maye (14 points, five rebounds) and others, but the night was reserved as something of a “breakout” from highly touted freshman Nassir Little.
Much has been made of Little’s inability to break through during his brief stint in Chapel Hill, as the five-star prospect entered the night playing only 18.8 minutes per game and averaging fewer than 10 points per contest. Some of that lack of exposure stems from the simple logistics of North Carolina having an experienced and prolific frontcourt but, in short, Roy Williams has come under fire for his apparent unwillingness to deploy the player with the highest upside on the roster.
In this game, however, that was not the case as Little exploded for a career-high 23 points (7 of 12 from the floor and 2 of 3 from three) to go along with six rebounds and three assists. As you would expect with his team topping 100 points in a college game, Little benefited from a lightning-fast tempo and a lot of space, allowing his elite athleticism to take hold. Still, some of that tempo was created by Little, who made an impact on both ends.