Gonzaga vs. North Carolina Breakdown and Predictions
As the emotional roller coaster that is the NCAA Tournament winds down, the field is left with just two teams ready to fight for all the marbles.
After taking out both Oregon and South Carolina in dramatic fashion, it will be the battle of the one seeds between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the North Carolina Tar Heels. While the Tar Heels were rebounding for their life in the dying seconds of their contest, the Bulldogs desperately attempted to put an end to the South Carolina Cinderella story. Fortunately for the Zags, South Carolina will not have National Championships in both women’s and men’s basketball this year.
That lead’s us to tonight. Vegas odds are only slightly favouring UNC (-1.5), but as everyone knows, odds mean little to nothing when it comes to the NCAA tournament.
The ACC-winning Tar Heels (32-7) take their five-game win streak into the finals, while the West Coast champs, the Bulldogs (37-1) enter the contest riding an eight-game streak. While the West Coast may be far inferior to the ACC, the Tar Heels understand that they cannot take the Zags lightly, a team with great size and versatility, the Naismith Coach of the Year in Mark Few, and a solid game on both ends of the court.
So who take’s the crown?
The UNC Tar Heels return to the National Championship games 12-months after falling in buzzer beating fashion to Villanova. Similar to Gonzaga, outside of Bulldog’s Zach Collin, this will be a battle of experienced college basketball players, both teams have great size and both can get after it on the glass. On the sidelines, both teams are exceptionally well coached, with Few leading the Bulldogs charge, and the great Roy Williams on the North Carolina side.
Behind their quartet of bigs, the Tar Heels have been the best offensive rebounding team in the nation, using that edge when it mattered most in the dying seconds of their Final Four match-up against the Oregon Ducks, preventing the Ducks from taking a buzzer-beater. Point guard Joel Berry was adamant after the game that his team was not going to let another basket at the buzzer end their tournament run.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 2, 2017
Through five tournament games, the Tar Heels have grabbed 78-offensive boards, but with the Zags ranked 47th in defensive rebounds, UNC will be in tough, no doubt. What UNC has in size and toughness, Gonzaga can and will match with seven footer Przemek Karnowski, Jonathan Williams, and Zach Collins.
The key match-up for the Zags will be at the point guard spot. Nigel Williams-Goss is one of the best players in the nation, while Joel Berry is far from 100-percent with injuries in both ankles. Williams-Goss will do whatever Gonzaga needs to pick up the win, and if he along with Jordan Matthews and Josh Perkins can stay consistent and hot from beyond the arc, UNC will have a rough time stopping Gonzaga.
The Tar Heels do have a star in Justin Jackson, and Theo Pinson can very well turn into the X-factor of the tournament game, but the Zags are extremely deep and have the perfect mix of both size and shooting to take down the mighty ACC giants. The Zags shoot a 52nd best 37.8% from long range and will enter with one of the best defenses in all of college basketball allowing just 60.9-points per game, good for fourth in the country.
The magical run for Coach Few and Gonzaga may end on a high note. Jackson, Coach Williams and the rest of UNC were destined to reach this stage after falling just short last year, but this will be yet another heart break for the Vegas favourites.
82 Gonzaga, 76 North Carolina