After pulling out an emotional upset victory over archrival Duke in the Final Four, the North Carolina Tar Heels face a tough turnaround for the national championship game on Monday night versus the Kansas Jayhawks. The Tar Heels get less recovery time and played a much tighter national semifinal than the Jayhawks did, with Kansas dominating Villanova from the jump in a 16-point win. This could be part of the reason that Kansas comes in as a 4.5-point favorite in the NCAA final as these two blue blood schools face off with the national title on the line.
But if the Tar Heels do have anything left in the tank, they can make life very difficult for the Jayhawks. If nothing else, Kansas center David McCormack won’t have anywhere near as easy of a time as he did against Villanova (25 points and nine rebounds on 10-for-12 shooting). The Tar Heels have a big of their own in Armando Bacot, who is coming off an all-time performance with 21 rebounds in the national semifinal against Duke, and he could help neutralize a size advantage that Kansas had had during much of its run to the national championship game.
However, it could be the Tar Heels’ lack of 3-point defense that may come back to bite them in the NCAA final. North Carolina has allowed teams to shoot 34.8 percent from behind the arc this season, and Kansas’ best player, Ochai Agbaji, went 6-for-7 from 3-point land against Villanova. If Agbaji stays hot, he could be the difference in this contest.
Kansas will also be tested on the perimeter, but the Jayhawks likely want it that way as they allowed teams to shoot just 29.7 percent from deep this season. The Tar Heels are coming off a game where they made 10-of-26 3-pointers — a tough percentage (38.5%) to repeat here.
With a total of 152.5, we should see lots of points on the board, but it’s a question of whether we should take the over or under in this one. Here are my best bets for the NCAA final between North Carolina and Kansas.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Kansas Jayhawks Odds, Trends, and Predictions
March Madness NCAA Tournament Final Four Betting Odds and Lines
|North Carolina Tar Heels
|(29-9 SU, 21-16-1 ATS)
||(33-6 SU, 20-19 ATS)
North Carolina vs. Kansas Game Time: Monday, April 4, at 9:20 p.m.
Where: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, LA
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Kansas Jayhawks Spread Pick
In recent years, playing in the early game on Saturday night has meant a big advantage on Monday. The team that played first in the national semifinal is 7-2 SU in the past nine championship games. In fact, most NCAA title games are not tight affairs as only one of the past 17 championships (Duke beating Butler in 2010) was decided by fewer than five points.
What Kansas has shown in its past two games is the ability to run teams out of the gym. The Jayhawks buried Villanova in the first few minutes of Saturday’s national semifinal and won their regional final against Miami by outscoring the Hurricanes 47-15 in the second half. With North Carolina likely battling fatigue (four Tar Heels played 36 minutes or more against Duke) and Kansas relatively fresh (only Jalen Wilson and Agbaji were on the floor for more than 33 minutes), I expect Kansas to get ahead early.
If and when that happens, the Jayhawks have the ability and depth to simply outrun the Tar Heels on their way to a national title. Take Kansas at -4.5.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Kansas Jayhawks Spread Pick: Kansas -4.5
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Kansas Jayhawks Total Pick
The reality is that this is going to be a hard total to hit, even though these teams are both ranked in the top 100 in pace. The toll of five games is likely to lead to tired legs and missed shots, plus the Kansas defense has come up big for much of the tournament, only allowing one of its opponents to top 70 points (Creighton in the second round). North Carolina has also given up an average of just 68.2 points per game in the NCAA Tournament.
To see a total of 152.5 hit, both teams will have to have their worst defensive showing of the tournament. I just don’t see that happening, so give me the under in a game is ultimately see Kansas winning.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Kansas Jayhawks Total Pick: Under 152.5 points
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