Will North Carolina – Gonzaga be the perfect encore to a tremendous Final Four, where both games were separated by one possession in the final minute? It’d be unrealistic to expect a classic like last year’s Villanova – UNC thriller won at the buzzer by Kris Jenkins. But it’s safe to expect something wacky to happen – Ken Pomeroy has Gonzaga winning by four, while Las Vegas favored North Carolina by two (the line has dipped to pick).
North Carolina’s advantage over everyone has been interior size; Gonzaga can match them. The Tar Heels have blown big leads, fallen behind, and rallied to victory (Arkansas), nearly blown big leads and barely held on (Oregon), and rallied late and won at the buzzer (Kentucky). Gonzaga’s road here has been well-chronicled. I can’t find an advantage for either team, as both are solid in the backcourt, wings, inside, and on the bench. Justin Jackson is matched by Nigel Williams-Goss. It really does feel like a coin flip. I’ll take the points and Gonzaga to win, 77-76.
Gonzaga is taking some heat for a perceived easy path to the final, but North Carolina is the fortuitous side. The Tar Heels’ Achilles Heel has been big leads in the final minutes against ferocious athleticism. Nigel Williams-Goss should be able to exploit the hobbled Joel Barry to some extent, and the Bulldogs have the big bodies to bang down low. If Gonzaga can keep Justin Jackson in check, they have a very good chance to make history. Mark Few’s team gets it done, 72-68.
North Carolina will be trying to avoid joining Butler, Michigan, Houston, and Ohio State as schools that lost consecutive title games. Both teams have had their moments when they have looked dominant in the tournament, only to make things interesting. Gonzaga is a great defensive team and can challenge North Carolina inside. Whether North Carolina (#1 in offensive rebounding) can get on the glass when there are challenges and defensive rotations will key. North Carolina won’t win if they shoot like Saturday, but I’ll say they don’t. North Carolina 71, Gonzaga 69.
This is North Carolina’s 11th NCAA championship game and just Gonzaga’s first. It will be difficult for some mid-major to overcome that kind of experience. North Carolina 62, Gonzaga 57.
College athletics is an antiquated world where labor compensation is optional and having blue blood still matters. I will personally will this result into being if only to avoid answering “So Gonzaga, where’s that?” during small talk sessions for the rest of April. North Carolina 72, Gonzaga 67.
North Carolina has been on a mission all season after losing a heart-breaking championship game last season. To get redemption the Tar Heels will face a monster of a Gonzaga team that has balance and depth. Still, North Carolina’s size, polish and experience will win out in the end. North Carolina 76, Gonzaga 71
Gonzaga. That is all.