A worthy Champion will be crowned tonight.
Whether you want to be high and mighty about the off-court issues surrounded the Tar Heel program, there is no denying their title-worthiness on the court. They have laid waste to everyone in their path in the NCAA Tournament, and done it in ridiculously easy fashion, winning every game by double digits and never legitimately being tested after the scrappy first half by Florida Gulf Coast. They are long and athletic, smart and senior-laden, and frankly have looked BETTER at every position on the floor than every opponent the last five weeks.
And in the other corner, you have the Villanova Wildcats. Perhaps underrated due to past season flameouts, the Wildcats have also ripped through this year’s NCAA Tournament. They thrashed a good Miami team, hammered an Iowa squad that was ranked as high as #3 in the country this year, and laid the worst beating on a team in Final Four history on Saturday night against a top-notch Oklahoma squad. They even took out the number one overall seed in the tournament in the Regional Final (Kansas) to get to Houston. This too, is a very good team; a team that has also been ranked #1 this season both polls, and a potentially worthy champion.
So who cuts down the nets tonight in Houston? And will we finally get the tense, epic game it seems we have been denied the past two weekends?
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Today’s National Championship Pick:
Villanova Wildcats vs. North Carolina Tar Heels -2.5
Let’s start with the obvious; if Villanova throws up another Don Larson-like perfect game when it matters most, all handicapping and prognosticating is moot – obviously, they win. BUT, since a game like the one they played against Oklahoma Saturday night has happened only ONCE in the history of the NCAA Tournament, lets assume there is a slight regression to the mean tonight. They aren’t shooting 72% and neither is North Carolina.
But why I like the Tar Heels is that they don’t NEED to. The biggest difference when watching North Carolina play the last three weeks is how EASILY they score, and how difficult it is for their opponents. It doesn’t mean teams CAN’T score against them; they do – it means they work exceptionally hard for every basket while Carolina comes back down and lay it in or tosses up an errant shot, sends one of their seven-foot plus wingspan army to corral the miss and put it back in the basket. The difference is six or seven easy baskets a game, and it turns close games into double-digit wins.
Villanova is tough, smart and excellent defensively. They’ve proven that all season since getting up off the mat in early embarrassments against Oklahoma (which they, um, avenged nicely) and Virginia. But their margin for error is slimmer than Carolinas, and in a near pick-em game with tons of pressure, I’ll take the team with a little more margin for error.
This could wind up being a classic – to it could wind up being a well-played game that Carolina makes a few more easy plays and gets a few more easy baskets and keeps a narrow but comfortable working margin all game long. I’m hoping for the former, but kind of expecting the latter.
I’ll take Carolina laying the slim few points to cut down the nets and win their sixth National Championship over a game Villanova squad.