The North Carolina Tar Heels and the Kansas Jayhawks met in the Final Four in New Orleans back in 1993. The only difference now is that the earlier meeting was a national semifinal, one that North Carolina dominated, 78-68. There’s a little more on the line for this rematch in The Big Easy. Tip-off from the Superdome is scheduled for 9:20 p.m. ET on Monday, April 4.
No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels 29-9 (15-5 ACC)
First Round: Defeated No. 9 Marquette, 95-49
Second Round: Defeated No. 1 Baylor, 93-86
Third Round: Defeated No. 4 UCLA, 73-66
Fourth Round: Defeated No. 15 St. Peter’s, 69-49
Final Four: Defeated No. 2 Duke, 81-77
KenPom rating: 16 Overall, 18 Offense, 39 Defense
Leading scorer: Armando Bacot (16.3 ppg)
Key stat of tournament: Bacot recorded at least 20 rebounds in North Carolina’s Elite Eight and Final Four wins.
Bacot’s health will be a top story for Tar Heel fans up until tipoff. The star forward turned his right ankle late in the victory over Duke. Although he returned to the game after a brief absence, he was clearly limited physically. Still, Bacot grabbed 21 rebounds in the game, the most by any player in a Final Four game since 2003.
The Tar Heels had a different leading scorer in each of their first four tournament victories. But whenever they have needed a big bucket, guard Caleb Love has delivered. He was incredible in the Sweet 16 round, tallying 30 points against UCLA. Then he nailed a game-changing 3-pointer with less than a minute to play in the win over archrival Duke. Love finished with a game-high 28 points on the night, and that trey will go down as one of the biggest 3-pointers in program history.
No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks 33-6 (14-4 Big 12)
First Round: Defeated No. 16 Texas Southern, 83-56
Second Round: Defeated No. 9 Creighton, 79-72
Third Round: Defeated No. 5 Providence, 66-61
Fourth Round: Defeated No. 10 Miami, 76-50
Final Four: Defeated No. 2 Villanova, 81-65
KenPom rating: 3 Overall, 6 Offense, 17 Defense
Leading scorer: Ochai Agbaji (18.9 ppg)
Key stat of tournament: The Jayhawks are shooting 51.7% over their past two tournament games.
It seems like Kansas is getting stronger as the NCAA Tournament ages. After winning close games over the Friars and Bluejays, they steamrolled Miami to win the Midwest Region and went wire-to-wire over Villanova in the Final Four. Besides their impressive shooting display in their past two games, the Jayhawks have a +19 rebound margin, have committed only nine turnovers per game and have limited their opponents to 36.6% shooting.
Agbaji, the unanimous Big 12 Player of the Year, and big man David McCormack have been KU’s top stars in the previous couple of rounds. Agbaji scored 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting with five rebounds, four assists and four steals versus Miami. McCormack put up 25 points on 10-for-12 from the floor and nine rebounds in the blowout of Villanova.
March Madness Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
Point spread: Kansas -4
Point total: 152
Moneyline: Kansas -180, North Carolina +155
Against The Spread Pick: North Carolina +4
Point total pick: Under 152
Pick to Win: Kansas
This should be a fun watch because both teams have multiple offensive-minded impact players on the inside and outside. However, a 153-point total — in other words, something like a 78-74 Kansas win — feels a little too high. It would be very understandable if both teams come out with some early jitters and misfire on a bunch of shots, thereby keeping the total down.
Bacot’s injury could play a huge role in this one as he is central to the Tar Heels’ attack on both ends of the floor. Love and Brady Manek have had memorable performances during this tournament, but Agbaji and Christian Braun have the ability to match them offensively. Plus, McCormack could do a lot of damage in the paint if Bacot is at all hampered. KU also has the better defense overall. Although North Carolina feels like a team of destiny right now, Kansas is the better team. The Jayhawks should win their first title since 2008.
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