COLUMBUS, Ohio -- North Carolina's No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament was questioned by some who felt that the ACC landing three top seeds was too many for one conference. But the Tar Heels have certainly looked the part so far and are moving on to the Sweet 16 after a dominating 81-59 victory over Pac-12 regular-season champion Washington in Columbus, Ohio in a second-round game on Sunday.
One key to a long tournament run for North Carolina (29-6) could be the production of freshman forward Nassir Little. The 6-foot-6 swingman had two big games here. He was second on the team in scoring in the opener against Iona with 19 points and topped that with 20, tied for the team-high with Luke Maye, in Sunday's victory over No. 9 seed Washington.
Little has been inconsistent this season. He only averaged 9.7 points per game and about 18 minutes, but the 39 points in two games here represent his two of his top four scoring games of the season and the first time he has scored more than 12 points in consecutive games.
Little is one of those guys that can jump out of the gym and is very effective in the lane and around the basket, but vs. the Huskies, he showed his versatility by hitting a 3-pointer right in front of the Carolina bench.
Coach Roy Williams would like to see more of that.
"I was very happy when he went out to shoot that 3 right in front of our bench because it was a shot that everybody wanted him to take," Williams said. "And we've seen him take those and he works extremely hard on the shot."
If he ever hits that shot consistently, he will be very hard to defend.
Williams is also pleased with the progression of Little and was not surprised by his performance here.
"You know, it's a little bit of it is maturing," Williams said. "But he was really coming along really, really well. And then he got his ankle hurt, and then he got hit in the eye and those kind of things set him back quite a bit. He had about a four, five-game stretch, maybe more or less, I don't know, that he wasn't as effective. But the last two games he's been something else for us."
Consistent production off the bench, from Little in particular, could make one of the top offenses in the country even more explosive as the Tar Heels continue their march through the bracket.
The Tar Heels were dominant on both ends of the floor, shooting 50.8 percent from the field while holding the Huskies to just 38.3 percent.
UNC will face No. 5 seed Auburn in the Midwest Regional semifinal on Friday.