Gonzaga (37-1) vs. North Carolina (32-7)
University of Phoenix Stadium, 75,000
8:20 PM CT/9:20 PM ET
Talent: Jim, Grant, Bill, Trace; Pregame, halftime: Ernie, Clark, Kenny, Sir Charles
Line: UNC by 1 1/2
Record since Sweet 16: 7-7 overall
Against the Spread: 9-5
This is a classic showdown between the top seed in the West and the top seed in the South with prolific players and excellent coaches all over the court. I was a litte hard on Roy Williams on Saturday, but he's won 2 national championships at Carolina, in 2005 and 2009, so that speaks for itself. Mark Few is outstanding, too. Classic matchups of players and coaches. Gonzaga features the awesome Nigel Williams-Goss at guard, 6'3", 195, who poured in 23 against South Carolina on Saturday in a 77-73 Zags victory and averaged 17 points and 6 boards this season, along with almost 5 assists. He's a spectacular player. Jordan Mathews is a superior marksman. He sank 4-for-8 from 3 on Saturday and sank close to 40% of his 3's this season. When he gets it going, he's a sharpshooter from trifecta. I know that 7'1", 300 pound Przemek Karnowski gets a lot of the credit, as he averaged 12.3 ppg and 6 rebounds this season and had 13 big points and 5 rebounds on Saturday, but I like 7'0", 230 pound freshman Zach Collins better. Collins played 23 minutes Saturday coming off the bench and scored 14 points and yanked down 13 boards. He's their best guy inside. Karnowski is good, but Collins really makes them go underneath. This is an excellent basketball team with one of the top 5 coaches in the country at the helm. I'd put Mark Few in the top 4 with Roy, Cal and Pitino . He's a difference maker.
UNC counters with the best player in the country in Justin Jackson. The 6'8", 210 pound junior didn't win the Naismith Award this season given to the top player in the country, Frank Mason III of Kansas won it. But Jackson was more deserving. He is the key cog, along with Kennedy Meeks, that makes this Tar Heels team go. Jackson averaged 18 points and 5 boards this season, and was sensational Saturday against Oregon in a 77-76 UNC semifinal victory, finishing with 22 huge points. He's superbly clutch. Jackson was 4-for-9 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line playing 38 of the 40 minutes. He's almost a flawless player in my opinion. So smooth. Just a highly skilled, outstanding player. Six-foot-10 inch, 260 pound Kennedy Meeks was just as terrific Saturday Night. In 30 minutes, Meeks scored 25 points on 11-of-13 from the field and grabbed 14 boards. Wow. He's also a superb young guy. He was very humble and gracious after the game and respectful of Oregon. Really like Kennedy. Justin is a super guy also. Point guard Joel Berry II has been battling ankle issues, but is playing through it with courage, and giving it max effort. The junior point guard averaged 14 points and 4 assists this season and posted 11 points Saturday battling against a tough opponent in Oregon for 35 minutes, and just his presence for UNC makes the team better. He's a stud. Isiaiah Hicks, 6'9", 242 pounder, battled some injuries Saturday, and wasn't his true self, but he's another stellar frontline player for the Tar Heels. I expect Luke Maye, the super 6'8", 235 pound 6th man for the Tar Heels to have a good game tonight. He wasn't as big a factor Saturday, but he is a spark plug for this team off the bench. Six-foot-six, 211 pound junior Theo Pinson is excellent. He had 8 points and 8 boards on Saturday. So is 6'1", guard Nate Britt.
I'm very bullish on both of these teams. UNC has massive talent and they were in the championship game last year and lost on a last second 3 pointer by Kris Jenkins of Villanova in the national championship game. Most of those players are back as this is an upperclass team. The Tar Heels still played superbly in that game. It was an extremely high level game. The score was 77-74.
Gonzaga is outstanding as well, and is confident and has a superb coach on its bench.
But so does North Carolina in Roy Williams. Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks andJoel Berry II are all 3 stellar, and UNC has unfinished business from last year.. This is going to be another epic like last year, but I expect the Tar Heels to win their 6th national championship in their storied history, and 3rd in 13 years under 15 year coach Roy Williams.
UNC 76, Gonzaga 75