Publish Date: 04/04/2022
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis
The North Carolina Tar Heels will face the Kansas Jayhawks for the 2022 National Championship in NCAA basketball on Monday night. North Carolina defeated arch-rival Duke 81-77 to secure a place in the title match. The Jayhawks were the only #1 seed remaining entering the final four, and they dominated Villanova 81 to 65 to secure a title shot. Surprisingly, this will only be the 11th meeting between these two most famous basketball schools in NCAA history. The Kansas team has the second-most NCAA wins, while North Carolina is third. Both teams have combined to win nine national titles, UNC winning six and Kansas three. The last one was in 2017. Check out the top new sports betting sites!
It was not that long ago that a loss to the Pitt Panthers had dropped the Tar Heels to just 18-8, and the Heels were firmly on the Bubble. From that point on, the Tar Heels have been the most improved team in the country, and they now find themselves just one win away from a National Championship.
These are the tournament numbers that will matter to UNC in NCAA Tournament. The Heels average 82.2 points per match in the tournament and allow 68.2 per game. They have defeated three of the top 25 tournament teams: Baylor University, UCLA, and Duke, after going 2-6 against ranked opponents during the regular season. Love leads the team with 20 points per game, including a game against Duke that saw Love score 30 points. 43% of the Heels’ shots have come from beyond the arc. They shoot 36% from long distances in the tournament. Love, Davis, and Brady Manek combined for 46 3pt field goals during the tournament. Thanks to the Tar Heel perimeter offence, Bacot is a menace on the floor and in the paint. Bacot averages 15.4 points per game and 16.8 rebounds per match, including 22 and 21 in his two last games. The tournament’s Heels average 22.2 free throws per match, which is 71%. The Heels force their opponents to commit just 18 fouls per game. If the Heels can force Kansas’ bigs to foul trouble, Kansas could have a very long night. Bacot’s health will be another deciding factor in if the Tar Heels can win it all, and as of right now, I think he will play, but he will be nowhere near 100%, is my guess.
In Saturdays Final Four opener, the Jayhawks defeated the Villanova Wildcats 81-65. This game was won by the NCAA Tournament’s last #1 seed. The Jayhawks dominated the game, especially from beyond the arc. They shot 55% from the 3pt range. They jumped out of the gates by making 7-of-14 3pt shots during the first half. Ochai Agbaji, Kansas’ star forward, hit his six first 3pt field goals. He finished the night 6-of-7 from long distances and scored 21 points. Jayhawks’ leader David McCormack had a strong showing as always, and this team seems poised to finish off this spectacular run, but the Tar Heels are the toughest matchup for the Jayhawks. The Jayhawks are a complete, well-rounded team.
Kansas has the edge in this matchup. Although Hubert Davis could have a great career and be a legendary coach, this is his first year as the head coach. A Hall of Fame coach, Bill Self has a national title, and 762 career wins. He also made four Final Four appearances. This matchup goes to Self. EDGE: Kansas
Kansas is back at the top of the Big 12, thanks to McCormack’s final season, especially the tournament and the consistent play of Big 12 Player-of-the-Year Agbaji. Braun was named second-team Big 12 performer this season and was second in scoring. The tournament has seen North Carolina’s top five shine. Love and Davis are the go-to players in the tournament. Bacot, who has been consistent on both ends of the court all year, is one of the most skilled rebounders in the country. Manek is a more potent offensive weapon in this tournament. His 25 point outburst against Baylor highlighted this before being dismissed from the game due to a flagrant two foul. Kansas has a great starting five, but the Tar Heels are slightly better. EDGE: North Carolina
Both teams rely on their starting five, especially North Carolina. The Tar Heels will use Puff Johnson to spell Bacot, but they will keep it under ten minutes per match if they can, and that’s where Bacot’s injured ankle comes into play. It will be interesting to see how Bacot’s ankle problem affects the final. For the record, Bacot declared himself fit to play on Monday night, but will he be 100%?. Martin and Mitch Lightfoot are the stars of the Kansas bench. Martin has been able to play starters from the bench, although his numbers have dropped over the past two games, as we pointed out. Lightfoot will replace McCormack, the last Jayhawk to have played in their Final Four team. Kansas will need Lightfoot for more than ten minutes, and if he is solid as we would expect, it could give Kansas a considerable advantage. EDGE: Kansas
While both teams have solid rebounding abilities, UNC’s has been the most successful all season. They rank 5th in rebounding percentage, compared to Kansas’ 28. Bacot is a great player on the glass, grabbing nearly 17 rebounds per tournament game. Kansas’ success will depend on McCormack’s ability at least to keep Bacot off of the glass marginally. EDGE: North Carolina
Kansas shot at a better level in the tournament, but it relies less on the 3pt shot. If the Jayhawks shoot like that again in the title game, you will want to find the best bookmakers and bet on them! The Jayhawks’ 40% 3pt shooting is also affected by the hot Villanova shooting match as they usually aren’t that good. UNC’s tournament shooting average is 36%, matching their regular-season total. However, the Tar Heels are shooting 3pt shots at an even higher rate than UNC, 43% more than their regular-season average. The Jayhawks will have to account for Love, Davis, and Manek. EDGE: North Carolina
North Carolina has been able to do enough to defeat high profile teams such as Baylor, UCLA and Duke, but it has been more due to their offense and rebounding than individual defense. Kansas, however, has played at a high level defensively, particularly since the first half of the Miami game in the Elite 8. Braun and Harris will be called upon to slow down Davis and Love to give the Jayhawks the best chance to win this game. EDGE: Kansas
These two teams are not stocked with experienced players at this level of the tournament. Kansas’ Lightfoot is the only player who has been to the Final Four before. Both schools come from elite conferences, and both have plenty of experience in big-game play from conference play. I don’t see any clear advantage for either side. Edge: EVEN
Both teams have reached their peak, as expected this time of the year. North Carolina has had a more challenging road than Kansas but has more tools at its disposal than the Jayhawks. Love and Davis are at an elite level of shotmaking at the moment. Kansas will struggle with Manek’s 3pt field goal shooting ability from long-range. Bacot’s strength and size will allow him to slow down McCormack, even though an ankle injury slightly limits him. His low post-game can also cause McCormack to be in serious trouble. This one could shift in UNC’s favor if that happens. In a game that I believe will be close to the final, Kansas’s 60% free-throw shooting could prove vital. In the end, I think the ankle injury is to Bacot will be the difference as I believe it slows him down just enough to lead to a big game by McCormack, and the Jayhawks will win it all.