2022 NCAA basketball championship game: UNC vs. Kansas nominated for national title when March Madness finishes

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An epic night on Saturday in the Final Four has given us the all-time national championship game with No. 1 seeded Kansas against No. 8 seeded North Carolina in the final game of the 2022 NCAA Tournament Monday night.

Kansas, the only No. 1 seed to advance to Elite Eight, took care of business in a wire-to-wire victory over No. 2 seed Villanova in the first game Saturday night. The Wildcats made several runs on the Kansas lead, but a combination of Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack and Christian Braun rose up with an answer on each Villanova run, leaving no doubt in the final minutes of the match. Both coaches emptied the benches, and Kansas turned its attention to its first national championship game since meeting Kentucky in the same New Orleans environment in 2012.

The first ever meeting between North Carolina and Duke in the NCAA Tournament brought so much hype that one could almost blame the excitement for both teams’ poor shooting early in the game. But after about 10 minutes, back and forth was underway, and the rubber fight between the Tobacco Road rivals delivered just as much as anyone could have hoped. The 18 driver shifts and 12 ties brought all the intensity of college basketball’s best rivalry to the game’s biggest stage, but it was Caleb Love’s clutch play that propelled Tar Heels into the national championship game.

Kansas and North Carolina have met several times before in the Final Four, including in 1957 national championship games, 1991 national semifinals, 1993 national semifinals and 2008 national semifinals. Here’s how each side faces each other on Monday night:

(1) Kansas Jayhawks

Midwest Regional Champion

  • Record: 33-6
  • Final Four appearances: 16 (1940, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1971, 1974, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2012, 2028, 2
  • NCAA titles: 3 (1952, 1988, 2008)
  • NCAA Tournament Path: First round – Def. No. 16 Texas Southern 83-56; Second round – Def. No. 9 Creighton 79-72; Sweet 16 – Def. No. 4 Supplies 66-61; Elite Eight – Def. No. 10 Miami 76-50; Def. No. 2 Villanova 81-65.
  • Coach: Bill Self makes his fourth appearance in the Final Four as a coach and they all come along with the Jayhawks. He won it all on his first visit in 2008, finishing second to Kentucky in 2012 and was eliminated from the national semifinals by final champion Villanova in 2018. With 16 major 12 titles in the regular season during his 19 years with the program, Self has established a model for regular seasonal consistency that is unsurpassed across the sport.
  • Best player: Ochai Agbaji. This year’s 12 big players do a bit of everything for this team. He can step outside as one of the team’s best three-point shooters or drive the field to play on the edge. In defense, he can be an effective defender on the ball, defensive rebounder, or take off on the quick break to play on the open floor when Kansas wants to push the pace.
  • Forces: This is an experienced team playing with a wealth of confidence trotting four seniors, a junior and two sophomores in their seven-man rotation. Two of these seniors have the potential to become the best player on the floor, but we have yet to see them play at the same time. Agbaji was the Big 12’s leading scorer, Big 12 Player of the Year and an All-American, but the tournament has seen the emergence of transfer guard Remy Martin, who was named the most outstanding player in the Midwest Regional despite coming off the bench. . as sixth man and missing most of February with injury problems. Both players are not only skilled scorers, but key pieces in Kansas’ perimeter defense, which will be an x-factor for success in the Final Four.
  • Weaknesses: After a great show in the Big 12 tournament, the Jayhawks have been a little bit striped in the Big Dance. The single-digit wins against both Creighton in the second round and Providence in Sweet 16 had some tense moments, but it allowed Miami to jump out to a lead at the break of 35-29, which really brought these consistency issues to the fore. Of course, this veteran team from Kansas responded by surpassing the Hurricanes 47-15 over the last 20 minutes. But if you’re looking for weaknesses in this experienced and well-rounded team, it’s that we have not yet seen the full 40 minutes of its best basketball in the tournament.
  • Key number: 0. Every other team in the Final Four has at least one former five-star prospect on the list, and the Jayhawks have none. Myself and experts everywhere have often started analyzes with some version of the phrase “this may not be Kansas’ most talented team, but …” before reaping praise for the Jayhawks with 32 wins. it’s strange for a program that has signed several five-star prospects and produced dozens of NBA players to be one of the least talented teams in the Final Four, but the composition of this squad – which for good measure has 10 previous 4-star prospects – maybe just what they needed to get back to the Final Four and maybe win another national championship.
  • Outlook: The loss of the 2020 NCAA Tournament is not a primary motivation for Kansas, but it is not lost to anyone around the program, as Self and the Jayhawks had the best team in the country at the time the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Agbaji, David McCormack and Christian Braun were all part of that team and have seen the bracket break their path almost every time in this tournament.

(8) North Carolina tar heels

Eastern Region Champion

  • Record: 29-9
  • Final Four appearances: 20 (1946, 1957, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2000, 200, 20, 20, 20, 20, 20
  • NCAA titles: 6 (1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009, 2017)
  • NCAA Tournament Path: First round – Def. No. 9 Marquette 95-63; Second round – Def. No. 1 Baylor 93-86 (OT); Sweet 16 – Def. No. 4 UCLA 73-66; Elite Eight – Def. No. 15 St. Peter’s Church 69-49; Def. No. 2 Duke 81-77
  • Coach: Hubert Davis is the first head coach since Bill Guthridge (in North Carolina in 1998) to lead his team to a Final Four in his first year. The successor to Roy Williams got off to a tough start to the season, starting 12-6 overall without a remarkable out-of-conference victory and 4-3 in ACC play, but Tar Heels’ strong close to the season moved this team out of the bubble, into the field and now all the way into the Final Four.
  • Best player: There has been a stylistic shift in North Carolina’s lineups with the transition from Roy Williams to Hubert Davis, but he has maintained at least one traditional big that can run the floor with Armando Bacot. It would be a bad decision not to let one of the best rebounders in the country see as much time on the floor as possible, but it has been interesting to see how Bacot has also taken on modern roles in the offense. He starts at the perimeter and floats into the lane, allowing him to either drive to the basket or kick out to one of North Carolina’s skilled 3-point options if the defense collapses. Scorer, rebounder and facilitator are all in Bacot’s wheelhouse, which is why he is the best player on the floor.
  • Forces: North Carolina has four players who are able to score 20 plus on a given night, and the versatility of scoring opportunities makes them a dangerous team to face in terms of game planning. In this tournament alone, we have seen guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis each score 30 points, Brady Manek has scored 26 or more twice, and Bacot has had a double-double in every postseason match (ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament), which Tar Heels has had. played this year.
  • Weaknesses: The lack of competitive depth was on full display during the nearly 30-4 run by Baylor in the second half of what would eventually be an overtime win for Tar Heels in the second round. After Manek was thrown out midway through the second half and Love’s bad problems caught up with him before the end of regulation, Tar Heels’ depth problems and matchup problems against elite teams beyond their starting five were on the line. Much has been made of “Iron Five”, which carries so much of playing time and played every minute of the second half of the victory at Duke, but the other side of “Iron Five” is a decline in experience and performance if one of The five are knocked out of the game.
  • Key number: 39.1%. That’s the 3-point percentage point from North Carolina’s win over Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. That’s just a few ticks above Tar Heels’ respectable season average of 36.1%, but in that rise you can find what North Carolina needs to beat Duke again Saturday night in the Final Four. While North Carolina has improved defensively in the month of March, the best course of action would not be to rely solely on defensive stops to win against the powerful Blue Devils. Timely defensive stops, of course. But North Carolina needs to hit threes to keep up on the scoreboard and give itself a chance to win late.
  • Outlook: According to BartTorvik.com, where you can not only check seasonally adjusted efficiency figures, but also sort the data by date, North Carolina is number 1 in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency since March 1st. The seven -game run is definitely up for criticism due to the small sample size, but it also supports what our eyes have told us. North Carolina may not be the absolute No. 1 team in the country right now, but it has played as well as the best teams in the country since the calendar turned from February to March. Tar Heels is a No. 8 seed in the tournament, but the quality of the game represents a team that does not check in as No. 29 to No. 32 teams in the field of 68. Still the task of winning the next game is the biggest at hand.

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