College basketball national championship prediction

Movie quote of the day:

“I like money.”

– Frito, “Idiocracy” (2006)

North Carolina forward Theo Pinson (1) celebrates after beating the Oregon Ducks in the semifinals of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga (37-1) vs. North Carolina (32-7)
University of Phoenix Stadium
Glendale, Ariz.
Line: UNC -1

March Madness comes to an end tonight, and honestly, I feel like we actually have the two best teams in the country competing for the national title. I think Gonzaga and North Carolina were the most consistent teams in the regular season, and have looked good throughout the tournament. Given how crazy March Madness can get, I can’t remember the last time that this has happened – probably back in 2008 when Memphis and Kansas met in the championship.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams reacts in the first half against the Kentucky in the Elite Eight. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina finds itself in the national championship for a second-consecutive season. The Tar Heels certainly will want to make sure that the game tonight ends much differently than it did last year. UNC has had a very tough road to get to this point. The Tar Heels faced the highest seed possible each round of the South regional (No. 8 Arkansas, No. 4 Butler, No. 2 Kentucky), and they also beat a hot and very athletic Oregon team Saturday in the Final Four. During this run, UNC has averaged scoring almost 84 points per game and have shot the ball well (45.3 percent), and have held their opponents to shoot just 40 percent from the field and just under 72 points per game. The Tar Heels have also rebounded very well in this tournament – tallying 224 total rebounds, and 78 of them were offensive boards. Rebounding will be a huge key to beat Gonzaga tonight.

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few reacts against the South Carolina in the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In Gonzaga’s first appearance in a Final Four, the Bulldogs find themselves in the national championship. While North Carolina had one of the tougher roads to get to this point, it’s been the opposite for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs did play the highest seed possible up until the Sweet 16, but since the Elite Eight, they’ve played No. 11 Xavier and No. 7 South Carolina. I’m not taking anything away from them though, Gonzaga has looked the part to me in this tournament. The Bulldogs have shot 44.1 percent from the field, averaged 73.1 points per game, and have taken care of the ball (12.2 turnovers per game). However, Gonzaga has looked particularly good defensively. The Bulldogs have held their opponents to shoot just 34.4 percent from the field and score just 61.8 points per game. Gonzaga is legit defensively, and the Bulldogs have the size to match up with North Carolina on the boards.

Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss celebrates after defeating the South Carolina in the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

This game will feature a ton of size – which means that this game will probably be a fairly low-scoring game because both teams have great rim protectors. The X-factors for this game will be whichever team can get more rebounds and make outside shots will likely win. I think that edge has to go to North Carolina. Even though I said Gonzaga has enough size to match up with UNC, the Bulldogs have given up a lot of rebounds this tournament to teams that don’t rebound nearly as well as the Tar Heels. UNC has more depth than Gonzaga, and most of that rotation is big men. The Tar Heels are constantly going to have more than one rebounding threat on the court tonight. With that and the speed from UNC’s guards, I think it will wear down Gonzaga. The Tar Heels also have the coaching edge and I don’t think Roy Williams will lose back-to-back national championships.

Prediction: North Carolina 70, Gonzaga 65

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

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