National Championship Preview: Kansas vs. North Carolina
No. 8 North Carolina ultimately started its championship-bound run on March 5 after marching into Cameron Indoor to defeat the Duke Blue Devils in what would be Coach K’s final home game, 94-81.
The story carried over to this past weekend, as the Tar Heels ousted Duke and sent Coach K into retirement following a 81-77 Final Four victory in front of a packed crowd at Caesars Superdome.
This was the type of game that should’ve been expected, as the pace was consistently back-and-forth for the majority of the contest that continued all the way until the final buzzer.
Hubert Davis’ squad prevailed in a game that could’ve gone either way, as Duke’s freshman prodigy Paolo Banchero left it all on the court for his team and his coach.
The freshman forward racked up a double-double in the contest, collecting 10 rebounds and tallying 20 points. Lack of consistency doomed Duke in this bout, as it could've used more production from junior forward Wendell Moore Jr. and sophomore guard Jeremy Roach, as they both only scored a combined 18 points.
Duke took a three-point lead heading into the locker room, but North Carolina came out fast and determined to outscore the Blue Devils in the second half, 47-40.
Then, with just under 30 seconds to play, sophomore guard Caleb Love hit a clutch three-point shot to put the Tar Heels ahead by four in a game that lived up to all expectations.
It would then turn into a battle of free-throws, in which UNC remained calm and collective to close this one out and put Davis in his first national championship game in as many years as head coach.
Davis entered Chapel Hill with big shoes to fill after former-head coach Roy Williams led the squad to three national championships in 18 years. With an already-impressive resumé, Davis looks to lead his talented roster to UNC’s first national championship since 2017.
It wasn’t just the rivalry that kept this game close, it’s been North Carolina’s consistency all month long to be able to come together and run through basketball powerhouses.
North Carolina has earned key wins over Baylor, UCLA and now Duke, to earn itself one final game against a talented Kansas roster.
Kansas cruised to a 81-65 victory against Villanova in front of a sold-out crowd in the home of the New Orleans Saints just one year after the pandemic kept a spectacle like this away.
The Jayhawks didn’t need much help in their Final Four matchup against the Wildcats, utilizing a 10-0 run to start the game in which they never looked back.
If there’s one thing to know before the championship on Monday night, it’s that the Jawyhawks are extremely good. Kansas’ toughness has become intimidating to its opponents, and it has not slowed down the pace despite its status as a No. 1 seed.
Easily dubbed the most well-rounded team in the tournament, the Jayhawks seemingly dominated Villanova in the Final Four. Senior forward David McCormack had a huge performance for the Jayhawks, tallying 25 points while also collecting nine rebounds.
A star performance from Ochai Agbaji also helped Kansas blow by Villanova, as the 6-foot-5 senior guard earned 21 points of his own while also going 6-for-7 from beyond the arc.
Both of these teams enter Monday night with plenty of reasons as to why they should be crowned champion. Kansas started its dominant tournament run against No. 16 Texas-Southern, eventually taking care of solid squads like No. 4 Providence and No. 10 Miami.
When it came to the Final Four, however, it seemed that this team turned up the dial and came into their matchup against Villanova as prepared and battle-tested as a No. 1 seed could be.
This is the first time Kansas is back in the national championship since 2012 after it fell to Kentucky, 67-59.
Two legendary blue bloods are highlighting this year’s national championship, as Kansas could now look forward to yet another showdown. The North Carolina Tar Heels have been to more Final Fours than anyone, and experience is a key factor in a game like this.
The Jayhawks will have their hands full on Monday night, as the Tarheels’s threats have shaken up brackets to earn their right to compete for a championship.
Armando Bacot, Brady Manek and Caleb Love have been exceptional this spring for the Tar Heels. North Carolina’s big-three left New Orleans Saturday night scoring a combined 53 of the teams 81 points against conference-rival Duke.
The Tar Heels have a chip on their shoulder but must get over their big win if they want any shot of competing against Kansas and its equally-talented roster.
The Big Easy will be rocking on Monday night, as tip-off is set for 9:20 p.m. in an environment that undoubtedly matches the energy of this game.
Connor Fenix is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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