Tonight's title game between Gonzaga and North Carolina has all the makings of an epic classic. So which side has the edge??
It all comes down to this.
After a tumultuous and thrilling college basketball season, we finally crown our champion tonight in Phoeniz, Arizona with the ultimate Cinderella (forget the seed, look at the overall program arc!) Gonzaga takes on the ultimate blue-blood, North Carolina. Who could ask for a better championship game? A tiny Jesuit school from Spokane from the West Coast Conference batting mighty North Carolina in a game that is David vs. Goliath in program lore only. On the floor, it’s all we can ask for; the two best teams in the country in a one-game, winner-take-all Title Match.
So who has the edge tonight? Carolina, the best offensive rebounding team in the nation, full of size and depth? Or Gonzaga, the #1 team in the country most of the season who has done little to show any vulnerability, even if they haven’t done enough to show some their power?
I can’t wait – but before we dive into one last 2017 College Hoops column, just wanted to thank YOU GUYS for a great season. It is a real pleasure to share our mutual joy and interest in college basketball all season long. It’s been cool to hear from a lot of you on Twitter (@TheMarchManiacs) and online. Regardless of tonight’s outcome (hopefully it’s a winner) it’s been an awesome season and we will tuck in right around 58% ATS with more than 150 recorded picks.
Thanks for following in 2016-2017 – and be sure to tag along for the rest of the NBA season and the upcoming MLB season as well!
Today’s NCAA Championship Game Pick:
Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. North Carolina Tar Heels -1.5
I hate that the first sentence needs to address health… but the first sentence NEEDS to address healthy. Namely, the ankles of the two respective point guards, Nigel Williams-Goss and Joel Berry III. Both are VITAL for their team’s success and both could be less than 100%. Williams-Goss’s injury was later in the most recent game, Berry’s has been lingering longer and is CLEARLY visibly affecting his play. He is still good, but not nearly the same. I think that is a BIG factor tonight.
Head to head and healthy, I’d give the slight edge to Goss. Assuming his ankle tweak isn’t a big deal, I give him an even bigger edge tonight. That is the fulcrum for my pick today, as I think Gonzaga is big enough to negate the massive interior edge Carolina enjoys in just about every other game. Yes, Meeks and company will still bang the glass, but I think Karnowski and Collins can maintain order inside.
The other difference for me is in the shooting. Gonzaga just has a lot more shooters on the floor at all times. They are a more offensively varied and diverse and should be able to score more easily than Carolina. They shoot nearly four percentage points better from the field and two and a half better from distance. And here is where you say “of course they do, they play against worse teams.” Fair. Overall, their schedule is undeniably weaker. But look at their top-flight games against elite competition; Arizona, Florida, Iowa State, St. Mary’s – their numbers don’t dip, and in fact, defensively, they look JUST AS GOOD.
As long as Gonzaga can stay out of foul trouble, I think they are actually the more talented team. As odd as it sound when comparing them to the long, lean, athletic Carolina squad, Gonzaga actually has more pros on their roster. Justin Jackson is unreal – he looked like Kevin Durant-lite in the Semi against Oregon, but Gonzaga can match well defensively with 6’9’’ junior Jonathon Williams.
I think this line should be even or Gonzaga -1, but Carolina is so much more brand-recognizable that we can get a little edge tonight with the Zags. As unreal as it should be in this era of big conferences gobbling up all the talent and resources and TV dollars and attention and… Gonzaga is the better team. I like them to cut down the nets and put a bow on one of the truly more remarkable success stories in the history of college athletics.
Today’s Pick: GONZAGA BULLDOGS +1.5