The college basketball national championship game between Villanova and North Carolina pits two teams who rely on very different things to win, and overall have run to very little trouble during the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
While the Tar Heels do more than just dominate the paint and crash the offensive glass, their big advantage comes from there. No one in the nation has the kind of depth and size they have at the frontcourt with Brice Johnson, Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks. Johnson has been a double double machine in the tournament, averaging 20 points and 9.6 rebounds per game while shooting 61.4% from the field. The big problem for Villanova, as other teams can tell them about it, is that he’s just one part of the problem.
But it seems everyone knows that North Carolina will get their points and rebounds from the frontcourt. What their backcourt does could be more influential, and that especially means Marcus Paige, having a disappointing season to end his college career, but a pretty good and solid tournament, averaging 14.4 points in the tournament while shooting a lot better than in the regular season, including 5-for-11 from the field against Syracuse. His 3-point shot is finally dropping too, making 47% of them in the tournament after going below 35% during the regular season.
North Carolina beat Syracuse by 17 points, and it was never close. They’ve won their games in the tournament by an average of 16.2 points per game, and never by less than 15 points. They’ve also never scored less than 83 points. Their defense might not be elite, but their offense is good enough to not let the games come down to whether their defense cracks under pressure or not.
Villanova do both things very well, although they headed into the tournament with their defensive prowess standing as their big strength. They’ve won their games by an average of 24.2 points, scoring 84.8 points per game while shooting 58.2% from the field. Besides the five point win against Kansas (64-59), there’s been nothing but easy games, including against number two Oklahoma, which got held to just 51 points. In back to back games against a #1 and #2 seed, the two best teams in the Big 12, Villanova gave up just 110 points.
Unlike North Carolina, it’s difficult to say there’s just one thing that works for them on offense. Every game seems to be the turn of another player to lead them in scoring, but there are some things that don’t change. Daniel Ochefu withstanding battles in the paint, which he’ll have plenty of against North Carolina, helps them put on the defensive and build their offense on that. Villanova do score, but because their defense is so good. North Carolina score because they don’t have another way to win, and it seems to easy for them, at least until now.