We are down to the final game of the college basketball season and we have Kansas and North Carolina. A matchup like that is never a surprise, but how we got here is.
Kansas had another superb season and throughout this tournament it has confirmed its status among the elite programs in the nation. The Jayhawks are kind of doing it the old-fashioned way too, not leaning on one-and-done freshmen but on player development and the notion of improving over the course of the season. They beat Villanova on Saturday, showing off their talent, depth and ability to beat teams with different styles. Kansas is a pretty complete team.
North Carolina is a big college hoops brand too but its path this season was a little rockier than expected. Under first-year coach Hubert Davis there were moments when it was not clear that the Tar Heels had this in them (or would even make the tournament).
Even when they won at Duke to close the regular season, few thought this team to be a true championship contender (I know I didn’t). They followed that up by looking pretty good in the tournament, but again most thought they would come up short against Duke in their epic clash on Saturday night. You could not match last night for intensity or all of the ties and lead changes but I did not think it was a very well-played game. North Carolina won because guard Caleb Love and big man Armando Bacot were the best players on the floor.
Kansas has won and covered the last three times these programs have played. The most recent of those was in 2013 though, so the only really relevant aspect is that Bill Self was the coach of Kansas for all three of those games.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Kansas Jayhawks
Monday, April 4, 2022
9:20 PM ET
Caesar’s Superdome, New Orleans Louisiana
Spread: Tar Heels +4.5 (-110), Jayhawks -4.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Tar Heels +165, Jayhawks -200
With this being the final game of the season we do hope we get a good one. At the very least we should get a fast-paced game and that is a start.
Both of these teams want to play quickly and this definitely feels like a game where the first team to 80 wins (and maybe even both get there).
Tar Heels forward Brady Manek (formerly of Oklahoma) is familiar with Kansas and I am sure he is telling his teammates that the pace of this game is going to be faster than what they are used to and that is saying something for the Tar Heels. The game will be won by the team that is able to catch its breath and find what is working first.
I am leaning to the Kansas side because they have more places they can turn for offense in a game like this. In the postseason the Jayhawks have five players scoring more than 11 PPG. They can look inside, where David McCormack has an athletic advantage over Bacot, or to the perimeter where Ochai Agbaji had his best tournament game against Villanova with 21 points. They also have x-factor Remy Martin, who was their best player in the tournament over their first three games.
Kansas just has more players it can turn to for consistent offense while North Carolina is going to be very reliant on Love to find some consistency in his game. It’s a small sample, but in five tournament games Love has not been able to put up strong games in a row. His scoring totals have been 23, 5, 30, 14, and 28. Unless he can find a way to post back-to-back games with 20+ for just the second time this season it is hard to see how North Carolina is going to stay in this game. I am very willing to fade him, not because he doesn’t have the talent but because inconsistency has always come with it.
North Carolina is not going to get embarrassed by Kansas but if things are not working you definitely want a more experienced coach on the sidelines. Of course, Davis just beat Coach K but when you watched the game the Tar Heels got some help from a tight whistle, and once Love got hot, that made things easy for them to know where to go. It was not a game where the Xs and O’s were the difference.
Bill Self is a better game coach than most give him credit for. That will also be a difference in Kansas getting a comfortable win. The Jayhawks are still building up too while the Tar Heels are in a bit of a letdown spot, even though it is the championship game.