On paper, the 2017 NCAA Division I men's basketball championship game should be a great matchup.
That's how the sportsbooks view this one anyway. North Carolina is favored by just 1.5 points over Gonzaga, per OddsShark, with the over/under is set at 153.5 points.
Here's a look at the television coverage for the game as well as some opinions from around the internet leading up to Monday's matchup.
|Event||Television Channel||Time (ET)|
|NCAA March Madness 360||CBS Sports||6-8:30 p.m.|
|Capital One Championship Central||CBS||8:30-9 p.m.|
|North Carolina vs. Gonzaga||CBS||9 p.m. (pregame coverage, starting lineups, national anthem); 9:20 p.m. (tipoff)|
Three of B/R's four college basketball experts took Gonzaga to win the national title. Here's C.J. Moore with some reasoning: "Kennedy Meeks was a huge part of UNC's win Saturday (25 points and 14 rebounds), but the length and strength of Karnowski and Collins could give him problems. Unless Justin Jackson goes nuts in this game, I like the Zags to win."
Meeks stands at 6'10" and 260 pounds, and the vast majority of players on the Division I level simply can't match up with him. That's partially why Meeks was able to grab 9.4 rebounds per game this season.
However, Meeks will now face the 7'1", 300-pound Przemek Karnowski and 7'0", 230-pound center Zach Collins, whose length may bother Meeks and fellow senior forward Isaiah Hicks down low.
It should be a great battle in the paint on Monday night.
Speaking of Collins, he broke out on Saturday, scoring 14 points, grabbing 13 boards and blocking six shots in just 23 minutes against South Carolina in a 77-73 win.
Two of four B/R writers picked Collins as the X-factor for Saturday's game. Kerry Miller provided more insight on that selection:
Frontcourt fouls are going to be a huge story in this game, and Collins both draws and commits them at a higher rate than anyone else on either roster, per KenPom.com. If he commits two early fouls, it'll be a huge story. Same goes for if he draws two early fouls on Kennedy Meeks or Isaiah Hicks.
Miller makes a great point. It's hard to decide who has the edge down low between UNC and Gonzaga, but ultimately, the winner of the frontcourt battle may be the team that commits the fewest amount of fouls.
Three of five CBSSports.com experts took Gonzaga to beat North Carolina on Monday.
Matt Norlander took Gonzaga to win 84-80. Here is some of his reasoning:
They have rated as the best team in college basketball for months. They have the size — and better frontcourt players — to match up against UNC. Nigel Williams-Goss wins the head-to-head battle of the point guard vs. Joel Berry. Those are two victories to UNC’s one with Justin Jackson winning the battle of the wings.
The Zags are first in the KenPom.com and Sagarin ratings. Gonzaga junior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss does seem to have the edge over UNC junior point guard Joel Berry II in their matchup, although the battle would be neck and neck if Berry was healthy (he is fighting two ankle injuries).
Chip Patterson is taking UNC with the belief that the Tar Heels will win the battle of the bigs: "Zach Collins had the game of his life in the semifinals but runs into a pair of experienced bigs with Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks and gets neutralized as the Tar Heels win another grinder."
Patterson raises a good point, as Meeks and Hicks are seniors who have been to the NCAA tournament four times and were in the national championship just last year, while Collins is a freshman who plays 17.3 minutes per game.
Saying the matchup to watch on Monday night will be between the big men on each side is a broken record at this point, but it's true.
Pat Forde offered more insight on the matter, specifically talking about how Karnowski and Meeks are able to dominate down low.
Karnowski has been known to use his belly and lower body defensively to dislodge opponents from the post. Meeks has been known to use his chest to go through opponents' backs in search of offensive rebounds. These are tricks of the pachydermal trade, and we'll see which rhino can get away with more.
Regardless of who wins, anyone who remembers when big men were big men in basketball should enjoy the low-post rumble Monday night. It doesn’t happen often in modern college basketball.
As Forde also mentioned, the game could change on a dime if either player picks up a few quick fouls and has to take a seat on the bench.
Therefore, the referees may be the true X-factors in Monday's championship. If they are calling everything, then this game will have a completely different complexion based on who stays on the court and who sits.
Should that be the case, then the reserves are going to take center stage, much like they did when UNC beat Kentucky, 75-73 as numerous starters were forced to sit due to foul trouble or injury.
On that day, UNC's reserves shined, with sophomore forward Luke Maye leading the way with 17 points and the game-winner with three-tenths of a second remaining.
Keep an eye out for Maye and other reserves if the refs are quick with the whistles.