Saturday's Final Four matchups set the stage for Monday's NCAA Championship Game featuring two No. 1 seeds, North Carolina and Gonzaga.
Head coach Roy Williams led the Tar Heels through another tough matchup against a red-hot Oregon team. Bulldogs counterpart Mark Few guided his team to its first men's championship game. Then he proceeded to do a handstand in celebration:
Both winning teams held off late-game surges and scored 77 points to punch their tickets to the title game. The two squads also have size in common. The Tar Heels' long, athletic players dominated the boards late in the game to seal the victory. The Bulldogs protected the paint and out-rebounded South Carolina 41-36 during Saturday's contest.
However, there's a huge disparity between the head coaches. As mentioned, Few will coach his first title game. Williams ranks No. 3 in championship game appearances, per ESPN Stats & Info:
You can refer to the viewing details for the NCAA title game below:
|NCAA Championship Game TV Schedule|
|No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 North Carolina||April 3||9:20 p.m.||CBS|
Prediction: Gonzaga vs. North Carolina
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Expect the prominent scorers on each team to carry the load. Justin Jackson and Nigel Williams-Goss will trade buckets at some point in the contest. Nonetheless, with NBA bodies on both rosters, the team that wins the battle on the boards should win the game.
Freshman forward Zach Collins provided a much-needed lift in the previous outing. He logged a double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds) with six blocks. His presence in the paint took away easy shots and compensated for center Przemek Karnowski's absence at the end of the first half.
After watching senior forward Kennedy Meeks dominate Oregon in the paint, Few should allot 20 to 25 minutes for Collins, who can compete with North Carolina on the interior. He's a superior shot-blocker compared to Karnowski and would certainly challenge the Tar Heels on the boards.
Collectively, the Bulldogs have tapped into their distance shooting over the past few games. Gonzaga shot 50 percent from three-point land against Xavier in the Elite Eight round and 47 percent in the previous game. Long-range shooting efficiency will decrease long rebounds and put pressure on North Carolina to nail a few triples as well.
Guard Joel Berry II has produced one efficient performance during tournament play. He shot a paltry 2-of-14 from the field against the Ducks, which increases speculation about his overall health coming into the championship game. The Tar Heels will once again have to rely on another scoring source to pair with Jackson on the offensive end.
As mentioned, Meeks took his turn as a rotational standout to propel the Tar Heels to victory. With the Bulldogs shooting 21-of-53 from three-point range over the past two games, forward Luke Maye should resurface as a major contributor on Monday. He's a 6'8" forward who is able to stretch defenses with a decent jump shot.
Both teams will start out slow as the players feel out their opponents. Inside scoring should dominate the first half. Sharpshooters will lead the charge as the second half progresses. Guard Jordan Mathews will have an opportunity to create title game memories in a close matchup. With Berry in a slump, the Tar Heels will need several shots from their best player, Jackson.
Gonzaga has the size to compete on the boards and the shooters to overcome deficits or take over the game. The Bulldogs defense won't allow an unforeseen breakout performance from a secondary scorer, which shorts the Tar Heels in consecutive NCAA title games.
Prediction: Gonzaga 79, North Carolina 75