The field started with 68 teams and is now down to the final two. Tonight, the North Carolina Tar Heels and Gonzaga Bulldogs will square off for the College Basketball Championship. The Tar Heels are looking to make amends for the 2015-2016 season’s last-second loss to Villanova in the title game. As for Gonzaga, they’re looking to etch their name in the history books with the school’s first-ever title.


How They Got Here

Experts scrutinize Gonzaga over the caliber of their opponents, who are part of the West Coast Conference. While North Carolina was grinding it out in the ACC, playing top-quality teams like the Duke Blue Devils and Louisville Cardinals twice apiece, Gonzaga faced softer competition. But Gonzaga didn’t just beat the competition in their 37-1 regular season, they smoked them. Their average margin of victory was 21.8 points per game, which was the best in the nation.

The Bulldogs also had an easier time than the Tar Heels getting through the Elite Eight and Final Four. The Bulldogs beat the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks in the Final Four and the No. 11 Xavier Musketeers in the Elite Eight. North Carolina had to earn their stripes by getting past the No. 4 Butler Bulldogs, No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats and No. 3 Oregon Ducks. They’ve had a tougher schedule in the regular season and in the NCAA Tournament. We’ll see if that shows tonight.



If experience is a factor, then the scales tip in North Carolina’s favour. Prior to this run, Gonzaga had never made it to the Final Four, let alone the National Championship Game. As for North Carolina, they played in the Championship Game last season. They’ve won the Tournament five times.

Monday’s game will be head coach Roy Williams’ 100th game coaching a team in the NCAA Tournament. As for Gonzaga coach Mark Few, despite a 26-17 record in March Madness, this is his first Championship Game.


The Battle Inside

North Carolina led the nation in rebounding margin (12.7) and offensive rebounds, with an average of 15.8 per game in the regular season. Gonzaga finished 11th in rebounding margin (7.2) and have a lot of muscle inside with 7-foot-1, 300-pound centre Przemek Karnowski and 7-foot, 230-pound forward Zach Collins, who looks like a future NBA first-round pick.

The Tar Heels outrebounded their opponents 12.7 this season, but Oregon matched them on the glass in the semifinals. If Gonzaga can do the same, they’ll have a great chance to win.


Betting Odds

The Tar Heels are 1.5-point favourites to win tonight’s game. The Bulldogs find themselves in the unfamiliar role of underdog; through 38 games this season, the ‘Zags haven’t been the underdog in any contest. The total for this game is 155 as we go to press.



*Odds as of April 3, 2017