The 2015-2016 college basketball season comes down to North Carolina (33-6) and Villanova (34-5) on Monday night in Houston. Both teams have had dominant runs during March Madness, and they’ll face off in the national championship game at NRG Stadium after impressive performances in the Final Four.
The No.2 seed Wildcats advanced to the title game in historic fashion, beating Oklahoma by 44 points on Saturday night. The Tar Heels didn’t coast like Villanova, but the only No.1 seed in the Final Four was in control of their matchup with Syracuse the entire way, ending the Orange’s improbable NCAA Tournament run with a 17-point victory.
With just one game left in the tournament, North Carolina is still waiting to be challenged. All five of the tournament games have essentially gone the same way. The Tar Heels have won each contest by a margin of between 14 and 19 points, scoring at least 83 points in each contest. Villanova, however, is playing just as well, if not better, and it’s hard to believe North Carolina will walk over them like they have the rest of their competition.
Even before beating Oklahoma and holding Buddy Hield to just nine points, Villanova had been unstoppable in the tournament. They won their first three games by an average of 24 points, and they defeated No.1 overall seed Kansas in the Elite Eight.
North Carolina hasn’t been an underdog all tournament long, and that won’t change on Monday. Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Tar Heels 2.5-point favorites, via vegasinsider.com, and the over/under is 150 points.
The first weekend of the tournament was highlighted by major upsets, and Syracuse made history by reaching the Final Four as a No.10 seed, but the cream has risen to the top for Monday’s title game. North Carolina and Villanova have been two of the nation’s top teams throughout the entire season, and they have a chance to compete in one of the best championship games in recent years.
The Tar Heels started the year as the preseason No.1 team in the AP Top 25 Poll, and they ranked No.3 after winning the ACC Championship. Villanova was No.11 to start the season, and after quickly making their way into the top 10, they ranked No.1 overall just two weeks before the start of the tournament. They have played like the two best teams in college basketball, but they’ve done so in different ways.
North Carolina’s frontcourt has been the key to their run, led by Brice Johnson. The senior forward is averaging 20 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, helping the Tar Heels dominate the paint. North Carolina out-rebounded Syracuse 43-31 on Saturday, and they shot 53.8 percent from the field despite making just four of 17 three-point attempts. The Tar Heels rank 10th in the nation with a plus-8.5 rebounding margin per game, and 312 teams make more three pointers per game.
Villanova, on the other hand, has relied heavily on their shooting from behind the arc. After going 11-18 from three-point range against Oklahoma, the Wildcats have made at least 10 threes in four of their five tournament games. Villanova is shooting 49 percent from three in the tournament, and their last two opponents have shot a combined 12-49 from that same range.
Guards Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono have been key for Villanova, and they’ll need to keep it going in order to prevent North Carolina from cutting down the nets. But Roy Williams’ team might be too tough for Jay Wright’s squad as the Villanova coach looks to win his first championship.
Prediction: North Carolina over Villanova, 86-80
Start Time: 9:19 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TBS
Online Stream: NCAA March Madness Live