North Carolina v. Gonzaga: is a great match-up. The one we want, with the two best teams in the nation, playing on the sport’s biggest stage.
And this one is essentially a toss up. A pick em. I had trouble going either way, because I can make as good an argument for either team.
Take North Carolina. After getting knifed at the buzzer in last year’s title game by Kris Jenkins and Villanova, you know they’re running on some premium fuel. And have been all season long.
Normally, I think the redemption angle is pretty weak. I mean, just because Villanova scarred them for life doesn’t mean, Gonzaga doesn’t want it every bit as badly as North Carolina does. But in this case, I think that redemption angle is real. And I think that loss to Villanova is what drove them all season long and is still driving them right now.
And obviously, there’s a lot more to Carolina than just that mission… This is a big, physical team, that will kill you on the glass, especially the offensive glass, with demoralizing second chance buckets… but they can also run you out of the gym in transition. A team that will wreck you in the paint and humiliate you on the offensive boards. Ask Oregon’s Jordan Bell. A team that didn’t play that well against Oregon and still found a way to get it done.
And there’s no way a team this good, throws another clunker. Not in the title game. And sure, Joel Berry had a terrible night against Oregon and is still a question mark because of his bum ankles, but don’t forget, Justin Jackson was the ACC Player of the Year. And he can flat out dominate. And has. And could again tonight.
And there is something to be said for having been there before. And North Carolina coach Roy Williams has. He’s already a hall of famer. And has won two titles. And a third puts him in rarefied air. Win a third and only Adolph Rupp, John Wooden and Coach K would have more. Sure, Jay Wright, without a ring, beat Williams and North Carolina last year. But Williams’ experience, on this stage, is definitely an advantage.
Like I said, the argument for North Carolina is not hard to make. And it’s easy to see why they’re the slight favorite. And why way more people are picking them than they are the Zags.
But like I said, I could just as easily argue for Gonzaga. And all this David v. Goliath bullcrap that I’m seeing proves Gonzaga still is not getting the respect it deserves. That they’re still being rapped for being a gritty little mid-major that goes to the tourney every year because they play in a soft conference.
A soft conference that doesn’t prepare them for the NCAA tourney or the big boys. And that they haven’t faced anyone like North Carolina this year, and they’re about to get their come uppance, and get abused and humiliated on the big stage. Yeah well, I’m here to tell you, that’s not going to happen.
And that rap against Gonzaga is bogus. They’re 37-1. And they don’t just beat teams, they blow them out, by an average of nearly 22 a game.
And as far as them not having played anyone like Carolina, fair enough. But they were able to grind out a win against a very tough West Virginia team. And they smashed an excellent Xavier team. And won a war against South Carolina. So everyone needs to stop with this David/Cinderella b.s..
Gonzaga has nothing to apologize for. Not for their conference or anything else for that matter.
Look at the metrics, and not only were they the best team in the country coming into the tourney, but they were most of the season as well.
And aside from most folks still overlooking the zags, here are a few more reasons why I love Gonzaga tonight. They’ve got the skill and the depth to stand in and trade haymakers with Carolina. The bigs to hang with Kennedy Meeks and the heels in the front court. Mark Few can go big on big with Carolina. Also, they’re first in the nation in defensive efficiency; and they’ve been even better defensively in the tourney than they were throughout the regular season. That’s how they win.
And another reason I like Gonzaga tonight is I don’t like what I’m seeing from Joel Berry. He’s busted up, coming off a terrible game against Oregon, and I just don’t see how the guy is going to bounce back in just 48 hours with two bum wheels. And the fact is, he really wasn’t going that well even before he got hurt. And while they do still have Justin Jackson, who can flat out dominate, the heels often go as Berry goes and he’s gone off the rails of late. They may have gotten over on Oregon without a healthy Berry, but I don’t see it happening against Gonzaga. And this guy is going to have make some sort miraculous recovery for them to win, and while I’m doctor, I just don’t see that coming.
If I have to pick, I’m taking Gonzaga. This isn’t just a great year, it’s a great program, run by an elite coach with elite players. And Few has the talent and the depth to match up with tar heels, and I think they’ll find a way to grind another tough one tonight.
I’m going with the Zags. Gonzaga 75, North Carolina 73.