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UNC vs. Pitt: Three Things to Watch

What to look for when the Heels open conference play tomorrow.

NCAA Basketball: Harvard at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The time has come. The ACC opener for the North Carolina Tar Heels is tomorrow at noon and they will travel to a packed house in the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.

Although they earned victories in the last two games, there was much to be desired with such a talented squad.

With two road games to start league play, Carolina needs to get off to a good start against a Panthers team that boasts the same record as the #15 Tar Heels.

Here are a few things to watch during Saturday’s road matinee.

Will the Tar Heels continue to be better with Nassir Little on the floor?

Nassir Little put together his most complete game of the season versus Harvard. He had the most minutes off the bench and put together a 12-point night. Along with Luke Maye, Little led the team with seven rebounds.

Little’s weakness this season has been on the defensive end of the floor. He was improved on the defensive side of the ball Wednesday night, but according to head coach Roy Williams, there is still work to do. Via UNC Athletics:

“Well it is an area that has been an area of weakness for him, no question. I think he was better tonight but he gave up two open threes in a row to three-point shooters. He has been trying much harder defensively. He is such a great athlete he was always able to do things because he wants to. So he’ll run hard or block your shot or steal your ball. but at this level it is hard to do that. you’ve got to be more fundamentally sound and he’s really working on trying to do that. I think he is handling everything great.”

With his talent and athleticism, combined with some hard-nosed coaching, look for Little to continue to improve on defense. The question is: when will he turn the corner and be the stopper Coach Williams expects?

Can Kenny Williams continue to improve offensively?

Since his two-point performance in the loss versus Texas, Kenny Williams has scored in double figures in seven of eight games.

With his three-point shooting not at the level he or anyone else has expected thus far in the season, Williams made excellent shot choices against Harvard.

He was 4-6 from the field, and although he was just 1-3 from three. However, his three other field goals were drives in the paint. Having those high-percentage shots fall can be just the boost Williams needs to regain his high-level scoring touch against ACC opponents.

Is the “small” lineup sustainable?

The White-Williams-Johnson-Little-Maye was the best on the floor Wednesday night. However, this was not the starting lineup.

Once again, Garrison Brooks got into foul trouble early in the first half and logged just 17 minutes of total game time. With Sterling Manley out with a knee injury and Brandon Huffman on the floor for just four minutes, Carolina went small out of necessity.

Without a reliable big man at the five right now, can UNC maintain success during the long ACC season?

This all depends on the maturation of Brooks and and how much more players like Leaky Black and Seventh Woods can provide in relief of others.


What are you looking for in the ACC opener? Let us know in the comments below.