Villanova vs. North Carolina -2 O/U 149.5
Coming off of pointspread covering performances in their Final Four matchups, these teams left no doubt they’ve been the best in the tournament field. Combined they are 9-1 against the spread thus far (Villanova 5-0, North Carolina 4-1) with nine double-digit victories. They are 7-3 over the total (Villanova 3-2, North Carlina 4-1) with six of those seven exceeding tonight’s current number of 149.5. Tonight’s championship game has numerous intriguing fundamental matchups which appear far more significant than the situationals or technicals in determining which tickets get cashed.
It’s no secret that UNC has a distinct interior edge in this one with ultra-athletic 6’10” Brice Johnson (team’s leading scorer, rebounder, FG%, FT% and shot blocker) 6’10” 260 pound Kennedy Meeks, 6’9” 235 Isaiah Hicks, 6’8” Justin Jackson and 6’11” 280 lb. Joel James. These five players form a group that features every asset imaginable from speed to inside force and figure to be difficult for Villanova which only has two post players that size in star C 6’11” 245 Daniel Ochefu and 6’8” backup Darryl Reynolds. Jay Wright is presented with a real dilemma in how to play this game. Use both bigs on the floor at the same time more than usual to combat Carolina’s edge, stick with his four guard lineup, speed the game up, slow it down, use his guards to his matchup advantage on offense. Expect a combination of all of those things tonight but there’s really only one which gives Villanova an edge and that would be making 6’6” swingman Kris Jenkins the focal point. The Tar Heels always have at least two 6’8” players on the floor at the same time and Jenkins can use either his quickness or size to hurt them from the floor and the foul line. Jackson is quick enough but not strong enough to handle Jenkins and neither Meeks or Hicks is quick enough if Jenkins draws them away from the hoop. If Villanova wins tonight it will be because Kris Jenkins had a huge effect on the outcome. All of their other guards, Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are more than capable along with Ochefu of being a productive supporting cast.
UNC really holds all the cards here because they own rare size and speed throughout their rotation that allows them to play any style of game successfully. If Villanova wants to slow the pace down, UNC can thrive against them in the half court. If ‘Nova wants to zone and focus on North Carolina’s 3-point shooting weakness (Wright has become more apt to play zone during games this season) North Carolina can pick zones apart with their lane penetration and height. If the game is sped up, the Tar Heels have inside guys who can fly down the floor without tiring and their depth keeps them fresh.
In the end, UNC is going to have some clear advantages. But I respect Wright's ability to gameplan and would expect him to throw out various different looks to help level the playing field. And let's not forget that Villanova is not completely void of talent either. They may not have as many "NBA ready" players as UNC but their overall personnel won't be completely outclassed. Looking forward to what should be a great game and any opportunities to place in-game or halftime wagers.