So you thought North Carolina winning at Cameron Indoor Stadium and spoiling Mike Krzyzewski’s last home game was impressive? The Tar Heels doubled down on that performance and sent the iconic coach off to retirement with a loss in arguably the most historic Final Four game of all-time.
Meanwhile, Kansas’ last 60 minutes starting with its dominant second half against Miami in the Elite Eight might be the best 60-minute stretch of the Jayhawks’ season. Kansas outscored Miami and Villanova 128-80 in that stretch, and they look to carry that momentum into Monday’s National Championship.
This year’s Final Four was loaded with blue bloods, but the two teams with the longest sustained excellence remain. It does not get much better than a championship game between North Carolina and Kansas. The Tar Heels look to match the 1985 Villanova Wildcats as the lowest seed (No. 8 seed) to win a national championship. The Jayhawks look to avenge a loss in the 2012 National Championship Game in New Orleans and seek their first championship since 2008. Thus, the narrative is no longer about Coach K’s quest for a title in his final season, but nonetheless, there is plenty of intrigue.
Here are our best bets from the National Championship Game between North Carolina and Kansas (Odds courtesy of BetMGM)
North Carolina +4.5 (-110)
I get that this is a matchup of a No. 1 seed versus a No. 8 seed, but are we sure the correct team is favored here? Look at what UNC has done to reach the finals. The Tar Heels started with a 32-point demolition of Marquette in the opening round, then followed that up with consecutive wins over Baylor and UCLA, two Final Four teams from last year. While the bracket broke right for them in the Elite Eight against Saint Peter’s, the Tar Heels were thrown right back into the fire, facing a Duke team that looked destined to send its coach off to retirement with a storybook ending.
Comparatively, Kansas slogged its way to consecutive victories over a shorthanded Creighton team and Providence and found itself down six points at the half against Miami in the Elite Eight. And if Justin Moore did not get injured in the Elite Eight, would Villanova have knocked off the Jayhawks?
Ignore the seeding disparity in this matchup, as the Tar Heels are playing their best basketball of the season.
Many are skeptical about UNC’s chances as it is difficult to bounce back from the emotional high of the first-ever NCAA Tournament victory over your biggest rival. However, this is not just any regular-season game that will be tough to get motivated for. This is for a national championship, and it should not be difficult for North Carolina to lock in and get prepared.
North Carolina backers may also be worried about Armando Bacot’s tweaked ankle he suffered late in the win against Duke. However, Bacot returned to the game and did not show signs of injury before he fouled out late.
Kansas is a deeper team than UNC, but the Tar Heels’ starting five might be more talented. Caleb Love is playing out of his mind, as his three highest-scoring games this season have all come in the tournament. And Bacot continues to be a double-double machine, as he is one double-double shy of David Robinson’s NCAA record set in 1985-86.
North Carolina has been doubted on several occasions throughout this tournament. However, they are 5-0 ATS through the first five games and have covered nine of the last ten. The Tar Heels have a great chance to cut down the nets on Monday night, but we will take the +4.5 points for insurance.
Kansas UNDER 78.5 Team Total Points (-120)
Many will fear opposing the Jayhawks offense in this game, considering how dominant they were against Villanova. Kansas scored 81 points on a Villanova team that had allowed an average of 56.5 points in its previous eight games. It was an aesthetically pleasing game to watch, as the Jayhawks and Wildcats set the record for the most combined 3-pointers in a Final Four game (26), breaking their own record from their 2018 matchup. However, UNC’s defense has been just as dominant and is built to negate two of Kansas’ best scoring threats.
David McCormack is coming off a season-high 25 points against Villanova, and he and Ochai Agbaji combined for 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting in the first 20 minutes. However, the rest of the Jayhawks shot 6-for-21 in the first half, including 3-of-10 from 3-point range. Kansas will need its supporting cast like Remy Martin and Christian Braun to play better in this matchup, as the Tar Heels have the perfect foil for McCormack and Agbaji.
Leaky Black is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country, and his length should bother Agbaji’s jump shooting. Agbaji has only turned it on of late, as he averaged 10.3 points and made two of his first 12 3-point attempts in the tournament’s first three games. Thus, we expect Black’s defensive prowess to slow down Kansas’ best scoring threat. In addition, Armando Bacot will provide a lot more resistance for McCormack than Villanova’s Eric Dixon did. Do not be swayed by McCormack’s outstanding Final Four performance, as he was held to single digits in five of seven games leading up to the Final Four.
Duke entered its Final Four game against UNC shooting 53.8% in the tournament, its second-best rate in school history. However, the Tar Heels defense limited the Blue Devils to 41.7% from the field and 5-for-22 from 3-point range. If North Carolina again plays defense like that, the Jayhawks will not come close to exceeding their projected point total.
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