NCAA Basketball – National Championship Picks

The 2022 NCAA Tournament is Down to Two

 

The Coach K Farewell Tour is over. On Friday, we posted our Final Four article, citing how Kansas wouldn’t have too much trouble with Villanova and UNC/Duke would come down to a final possession. Both predictions turned-out to be correct, as we now have an all-Roy Williams Final. We also finished the Tournament 17-13 on our picks. With just one game left, we hope you’ve enjoyed this March Madness as much as we did.

A lot of wild things happened in the Tournament. We saw a one seed go down in Round 2. A two seed lost in the opening round, while the 15 seed who beat them made it all the way to the Elite Eight. We had Duke vs North Carolina face-off for the first time ever in the Tournament in Coach K’s last ever game. The road was long and full of surprises, but at the end of it all, it’ll be two familiar teams without any household names, playing for the national title.

 

The Big East Killers, Kansas

 

Kansas has been a great team this season. There’s no doubt about it. However, their path to the title game has been relatively easy. The matchups against Texas Southern and Creighton were about as easy as it gets for a one seed. After sneaking-by Creighton in the second round, Kansas then played a Providence team who was both undersized and untested. Miami was an unexpected team to face in the Elite Eight, and their seeding really ended-up reflecting their performance.

The Final Four matchup vs Villanova was all too predictable, in a tournament full of uncertainty. Villanova’s strength all season had been controlling games. Whether it’s through tempo or defense, the Wildcats would get a lead and then choke off their opponents by burying them from the line in the waning minutes of games. With Justin Moore out and their rotation, we were correct to assume Villanova would plug one of Daniels, Arcidiacono, or Antoine in Moore’s place and one of the remaining two would assume the overwhelming role as 6th man.

Watching the game against Villanova, it was clear the margin for error would be smaller against such a large, athletic opponent (who we all knew would be better on the glass). When Kansas shot over 50% from both the field and from three, it was simply too much for Villanova to handle. Now, Kansas will face their first truly hot opponent of the tournament.

 

The Most Unlikely of UNC Teams to Ever Make a Final

 

North Carolina has a rich history of winning (as we covered in the Final Four article). This season was Hubert Davis’ first as coach of the Tar Heels and he’s already made history in a few ways. Not only did he end Coach K’s career, he did it at Duke to close the regular season (as 12 point dogs) in perhaps the most hyped game in this rivalry (at the time).

North Carolina’s path to the final has been much tougher than that of Kansas. For one, they had to face Kansas’ in-conference nemesis (Baylor) in the second round. They followed that with a meeting against UCLA in the Sweet 16, but got a break against St. Peter’s in the Elite 8. Beating Duke at Duke to end the season was a massive accomplishment, but repeating it in the Final Four was even more impressive. Now, they get a Kansas team that has had a slew of stinkers, albeit much earlier in the season.

The Tar Heels are a strong rebounding team (17th nationally) and a solid offensive team (31st in PPG). This matchup looks like we’re splitting hairs for the most part, but I like the mental edge for Carolina.

 

North Carolina +4 vs Kansas

 

What’s odd about this line is the lack of consideration for how well North Carolina has played over the last month. I get Kansas should be the favorite, but it seems odd Vegas would give Kansas this much benefit of the doubt, given their lack of legit opponents since their last loss. Villanova was a slightly worse version of themselves, so in a negative game script, it’s obvious they fell the way they did (especially with how well Kansas shot the ball).

I like for Carolina to match the athleticism of Kansas, and even have an edge on the glass. Amando Bacot rolled his ankle with around six minutes to go against Duke, so he WILL be laboring through this game, but the extent may be overblown. Expect a cortisone shot, heavy ankle tape, and the same 110% effort from Amando in this game.

On the other side, Kansas will have to focus on ball movement and getting good shots. It may help to attack Bacot in the high post and then block him out on the backside. Bacot is the liability, due to his health. If Kansas can draw him out of the post, North Carolina’s effectiveness on the glass can be limited. Expect this game to be defensively focused. Transition scoring may be limited here, as a smart possessions approach seems viable for both teams.

I like for Carolina to win here. They have the slight advantage in rebounding. Both teams protect the ball well, and both have shot extremely well. I expect the game will be close without, but I also think this game should come down to the wire. In these cases, I like the underdogs.

 

North Carolina vs Kansas Under 151.5 Total Combined Points

 

With Bacot’s current health in question, North Carolina may have to slow the game down, considerably. Kansas may try to run to push for an advantage down low in transition, but Carolina has the size to matchup defensively. As well as both these teams have played thus far, I can’t see a scenario where one team gets out to a massive lead (unless Bacot is just THAT much hindered by the ankle). I expect the final score will be close, but low 140s would be the expectation for the combined total.

Author: Paula Dunn