It all comes down to this, North Carolina and Kansas, two of the historically best programs in the sport, match up for a chance to take home the 2022 National Championship trophy. North Carolina is coming off a historic win against their rival Duke, which was an emotional win, while Kansas is coming off a win against Villanova to get back to the National Championship for the first time since 2012. The question comes down to which team can put together the best 40 minutes to win their program another National Championship.
#8 North Carolina vs #1 Kansas 9:20 ET on TBS
This matchup will see two of the faster teams in the sport, both teams will try to run and get in transition, while both are good rebounding teams, but the question is which team is able to hit the big shots when it matters most.
North Carolina has been one of the best teams in the sport since the month turned to March, while early-season struggles had this team on the bubble, Hubert Davis’ team has rebounded in a big way to get to this point. They have made two major changes, first off, they’ve moved RJ Davis to the point and Caleb Love off the ball, secondly, they’ve gone to an iron-five lineup, which consists of Davis, Love, Leaky Black, Brady Manek, and Armando Bacot, who play pretty much all the minutes for this team. This strategy has gotten this team playing great basketball and has been a key reason they are in the Championship game.
Caleb Love has had two of the signature shots in this Tournament, both threes against UCLA and Duke to put the game away, his scoring ability completely matched that of Duke and was a big reason they won that game. RJ Davis has been a great guard scorer in this tournament as well, he’s able to score off the drive and has been a steadying influence at the point. Armando Bacot mans the middle, he’s an elite rebounder, who has dominated the boards in the tournament, while he’s a good interior scorer and post presence. Brady Manek is the prototypical stretch-4, who has made so many big shots for the Tar Heels. Leaky Black is an elite glue-guy, who defends 1-5, gets critical boards, and acts as a lockdown defender. The bench isn’t much, but these five have been terrific and have won them so many big games to this point in the Dance.
The Jayhawks have never been in a better position to get another National Championship and get Bill Self his second title than this season. The team has a great rotation 1-6, has a sense of determination, and seems to be playing for something more than just this title but also for the 2020 team that was the favorite to win it all. This team may not have the most talent in the world, but plays fantastic together and that alone makes them a great team, but they will need to validate it with another title.
Ochai Agbaji is the star of this team, he was red-hot against Villanova and helped bury them early, he’s a terrific shooter, athlete, and what might be most impressive for him is the fact he doesn’t force anything. David McCormack has been hot and cold all season, but has seemingly saved the best for last, he dominated Villanova inside and has risen to the occasion in every important game this season. Christian Braun is somewhat of an X-factor, he plays with a sense of grittiness and toughness that is important, but when he gets going, this team becomes so tough to defend. Jalen Wilson presents a matchup issue for teams because he’s so quick off the bounce, can stretch the floor, and is a good rebounder. Dajuan Harris is a glue guy point guard, who defends opponents’ guards at a high level, runs the offense, and makes a ton of hustle plays. Add in Remy Martin, who provides instant offense off the bench whenever the offense gets boggles down and this rotation has little holes to be exploited.
The Jayhawks have every reason to be favored in this game, they have been better all season, are playing great basketball right now, and have a little more experience all around. That said, North Carolina has the ability to win this game, Bacot and Black will make it tougher for Agbaji and McCormack to get going, so Kansas will have to win with their other options. The Heels also have the ability to stretch the Kansas defense out from the perimeter and leave more space for Bacot to operate. On offense, Kansas will try to get downhill and score while trying to get the North Carolina bigs in foul trouble. I think this game will be a game where Kansas gets out to a good start, taking the lead early and while North Carolina will make their rallies, the Jayhawks will hold on and win the National Championship.
Prediction: Kansas 82 North Carolina 74