Will Tar Heels storm past Wildcats?
After Semifinal Saturday featured a pair of near-unconscionable blowouts, expect a much tighter national championship in a few hours.
North Carolina and Villanova will square off to determine which school gets college basketball’s one shining moment for 2015-16, with a 9:19 p.m. ET tip at NRG Stadium. The top-seeded Tar Heels are 3-point favorites entering the festivities in Houston. According to oddsmakers at online sports book Bovada.lv, the over/under total sits at 151.
Two nights ago, the second-seeded Wildcats set the lopsided tone by handing Oklahoma a preposterous beating. Jay Wright’s squad shot 71.4 percent – the second-best figure in Final Four history – in a 95-51 trouncing that sent Buddy Hield and company crashing back to earth. While Josh Hart led the way with 23 points, six players reached double figures.
The Tar Heels triumphed over Syracuse in a similarly decisive fashion, 83-66, thanks to an ultra-balanced scoring attack. Forwards Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson tallied 16 points apiece to accompany 15 from Kennedy Meeks and Marcus Paige’s 13. UNC also forced the Orange into 10 turnovers.
The transition opportunities may not be as plentiful if Villanova has its druthers. With Daniel Ochefu setting up shop down low, the Wildcats customarily love to run a halfcourt offense and minimize the total number of possessions. Wright’s group specifically owned the inside against the Sooners, outscoring them 38-20 in the paint.
Of course, North Carolina did likewise over the weekend. Roy Wiliams’ crew has won each of its five tourney games this year by an average of 16.2 points and seems more focused than at any point throughout the campaign. That 10-game winning streak, forged through the fire of ACC and NCAA tourney competition, is no joke.
If we’re playing the pedigree card, the Tar Heels prevail going away. Chapel Hill’s finest have reached the title tilt for the 10th time, whereas Villanova now boasts three such appearances. But don’t discount the revenge factor here. UNC dismissed the Wildcats in the Big Dance on the way to championships in 1982, 2005 and 2009. Wright’s troops will be in it until the end.
MONDAY NCAA FREE PICK: NORTH CAROLINA -3