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Gonzaga

vs.

North Carolina

College Basketball

National

Championship

4/3/17

Two of the most complete teams in the country meet for the National Championship and that’s about all fans could ask for. In the Final Four, Gonzaga used a balanced lineup with size to take down South Carolina while North Carolina mainly used just size to beat Oregon. This matchup can be considered a battle of giants with the Tar Heels opening as slight -1.5 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

Neither team has had an easy road, but both have managed to close out games in the final minutes and that’s all that matters in the tournament. This game is all about matchups just like any other game before it and for the first time in the NCAAs, UNC can be matched up fairly equally by Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs went big a number of times against South Carolina and will likely take that route again with 7-footers Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins on the floor at the same time. Those two will get equally tough battles against Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Luke Maye and Tony Bradley. Meeks has probably been the most dominant big man in the paint this tournament, but he hasn’t seen anyone that can handle his size and Karnowski will change that. If Karnowski can move around Meeks down low, that would be a boost for the underdog. Collins used his athleticism to block six shots last game, but that athleticism can be matched by most of the UNC bigs, so he’ll need to take advantage in other ways, which could end up meaning his shot and stretching the floor. Johnathan Williams will start the game on Hicks and can’t be overlooked, especially after he scored 19 points in the win over Xavier.

At the three-spot, Justin Jackson will once again have a major size advantage on anyone that guards him and that’s the case in almost every game. At 6-8 playing the three, not many teams have that same kind of size and Gonzaga will have a hard to matching that, whether it’s Jordan Mathews, Josh Perkins or Silas Melson, all who come in at 6-4 or under. Jackson’s defense could also limit the open three-point looks for Mathews, who has been huge from distance in the past few games.

In the backcourt, the obvious worry is Joel Berry’s two sprained ankles after going just 2-of-14 from the field last game. If that's a problem again, the door will be open for Gonzaga as it’s hard to see Roy Williams sitting Berry for more than five minutes even with Nate Britt and Seventh Woods coming off the bench. Berry and Britt will have a tough time dealing with Nigel Williams-Goss on the perimeter and that may be the biggest edge the Zags have. Williams-Goss had a troubling tournament up to the Final Four, but then he went for 23 points, 5 boards and 6 assists against the Gamecocks. He could have a similarly big game against smaller defenders in the championship. That said, it wouldn’t be surprising if the 6-6 Theo Pinson was used exclusively on Williams-Goss. Pinson is used mainly as a defensive specialist and has held down multiple guys in the tournament so far.

Gonzaga has the size to deal with North Carolina, but it’s a question if that will be enough. Justin Jackson holds the best advantage in this game for the Tar Heels and he’s averaging over 20 points per game in the tourney. If he can find success and Pinson can limit Williams-Goss’ easy looks, that’ll give UNC the edge.

But in a game between two of the best offenses and defenses in the country according to adjusted efficiency, anything can happen. If Gonzaga limits Meeks down low, that’ll be step one of pulling off an upset. And as it stands, the Bulldogs have the best two-point field goal defense in the country. This game will be fun and while UNC looks like the easier team to back, it wouldn’t be wise to throw Gonzaga to the curb just yet.

**Note - Our model has North Carolina winning by 5 to 8 points. However, there are times when you need to buck the stats and models and go with a perceived destiny. That fits here.

Our Pick - Gonzaga +1.5

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