The end of a fantastic college basketball season comes to an end with North Carolina playing Villanova for the national title. The preseason number one team that had a rough start and a dominant finish, against a Wildcats team that also got better as the season went along, making it a fitting finish to a great NCAA Tournament, filled with surprises, but the last teams standing are hardly cinderellas.
While North Carolina are considered to be the better team offensively, Villanova’s offense has been the slightly better one through the NCAA Tournament and except for their stunning win over Kansas that included an impressive comeback, they been routing teams in a way no one thought they’d be able to. Their secret has been getting hot early, and never cooling down. They shot 35-for-49 from the field, 71.4% from the field in the second half against Oklahoma. They’re shooting close to 60% from the field in the tournament
But some teams become this good offensively when the defense is on point. And Villanova’s defense has been fantastic. They held Kansas and Oklahoma to a combined 110 points in their two games against the top two seeds from the Big 12. Oklahoma shot just 31.7% from the field and turned the ball over 17 times in the Final Four semifinal. It’s probably a bit more difficult doing that to North Carolina, but Villanova staying aggressive and mobile defensively is the key to pulling off another number two over number one upset.
The thing about Villanova is that it seems they have more ways to win this game than the Tar Heels. But still, North Carolina have a very efficient way of winning games this season and especially in the tournament, never beating a team by less than 15 points. Even against Syracuse, shooting only 4-for-17 from beyond the arc, they ended up winning by 17 points. Their dominance in the paint, through their long, big and deep frontcourt, has been too much for everyone to handle.
Just like stopping Villanova from getting hot early is a key, pushing the ball into the paint for Brice Johnson and the others is the best thing North Carolina can do to keep the game in a comfortable rhythm and feel comfortable offensively. Villanova are experts at taking teams away from their comfort zone, but we haven’t seen anyone being able to really challenge the Tar Heels since before the ACC Tournament, which they won impressively.
Two schools that have been this far before, but are at a point in the program timeline in which a win would mean so much, while a loss could mean that this impressive March-April run doesn’t have the kind of impact it should.