After months of intense competition, the men’s college basketball season is down to one game.
The North Carolina Tar Heels will tip off against the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Apr. 3 in the national championship at the University of Phoenix Stadium. This season has brought a list of firsts for the Bulldogs (37-1) who made their first appearance in the Final Four and have a shot at the school’s first championship, but it’s business as usual for the Tar Heels (32-7). Both teams are talented and will undoubtedly bring their best effort with all the chips on the table. But who will win the national title? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the Championship outcome.
Riley: The Tar Heels were a buzzer-beater away from hoisting last year’s trophy and I think they will finally wash away the taste from a bitter end to last season. Few schools can rival North Carolina’s blend of size, experience and talent. When you drizzle in coaching from one of the nation’s best, Roy Williams, the Tar Heels should be the favorite to win it all. North Carolina has legitimate NBA talent starting on the same roster that made the title game last season. It’s rare in college sports that a school returns to championship games in back-to-back seasons and comes away empty-handed both times.
Green: The Tar Heels are loaded for sure, but the makeup of the Bulldogs roster is intriguing. They have two seven-footers in the middle and receive top-notch guard play from an experienced group of juniors and seniors in the backcourt. If any school can match North Carolina size for size, it’s Gonzaga. The Bulldogs can throw a number of different lineups at their opponents, and they have at least five players who averaged double-figures in scoring throughout the regular season. This Gonzaga team is deep, and because they’ve somewhat floated under the radar for most of the year despite an impressive record, this could be a dangerous game for the Tar Heels. The name on the front of their jerseys won’t make Gonzaga fold.
Riley: North Carolina won’t beat Gonzaga with intimidation, they’ll do it through their own game: running the floor, playing from the inside out and getting their multiple weapons involved. The Tar Heels are simply on a mission and they won’t ease up until the nets are cut down. Perhaps, they should have won it last season, but a long distance three-pointer deflated those chances. It’s just hard to envision UNC letting another title slip through their fingers after coming so close last spring. The Tar Heels have made just enough plays all year to keep winning, and they’ll find whatever magic they need again when the lights come on on Apr. 3.
Green: It’d be a shame to mention that North Carolina point guard Joel Berry II is operating on two sprained ankles, so his production could be limited. The Tar Heels traditionally have only been as strong as their starting lead guard, and a banged-up Berry could be just enough of a setback to cost them big time. Gonzaga will enter the matchup mostly healthy without any serious bumps or bruises. Simply put: the Bulldogs are healthy, huge and unheard of, and those three factors should be enough for the school from Spokane, Wa to pull off the upset.