NEW ORLEANS, La. — Two of college basketball’s most historic programs will meet in the national championship game on Monday night.
Kansas and North Carolina will face off for the eleventh time, with six of those matchups being in the NCAA Tournament.
The Jayhawks faced the Tar-Heels in the national championship once before in 1957, a game won by UNC in triple overtime. Although, Bill Self is 3-0 against the Tar-Heels in his time at Kansas. North Carolina’s last win against the Jayhawks was in 2002.
UNC’s season was looking bleak at the beginning, with a tournament appearance in doubt, but they were able to turn it around winning eight of their last 10 heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas was as steady as usual all year, winning their regular season and conference tournament championships. Anything short of a Final Four appearance for the Jayhawks this season would have probably been considered a disappointment. For KU, they were supposed to be here.
The Jayhawks are the much deeper team and they’re more experienced. KU also likes to play fast-paced as they seem to be at their best in transition, but the Tar-Heels have the speed and personnel to match them.
North Carolina is much more top-heavy as they’re led by Armando Bacot, who averages a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds and Caleb Love, who also averages 16 points. Brady Manek (15.2 ppg) and Rj Davis (13.5 ppg) also average double figures for the Tar Heels.
Outside of that, the Tar Heels have gotten little production from their bench, which could come into play down the stretch.
The Jayhawks are led by Ochai Agbaji (18.9 ppg), but have a slew of guys whocan have a big game any given night, such as Remy Martin, Jalen Wilson, Christian Braun or David McCormack.
It will be interesting to see if UNC has enough left in the tank to keep up with KU late in the second half.
An advantage the Tar Heels do have is on the glass. They’re ranked fifth in the nation averaging 40.9 rebounds per game. Can the Tar Heels take advantage of that and create more second chance opportunities?
Key Matchup: It should be a fun battle between the two bigs David McCormack and Armando Bacot. Can McCormack continue his stellar play into the championship against a player of Bacot’s caliber and will he be able to limit him defensively?
I expect this game to go down to the wire, but with Kansas depth and experience, they should be able to outlast the Tar-Heels.
Prediction: Kansas 78 North Carolina 71