2016 March Madness: NCAA College Basketball Title Game Odds and Pick
March Madness leaks into April for one final game, as the Villanova Wildcats and North Carolina Tar Heels are the last survivors of the intense tournament that began last month.
Both teams had little trouble moving on to the NCAA college basketball title game, as Jay Wright’s Wildcats dropped the Oklahoma Sooners by a tournament record 44 points and Roy Williams guided North Carolina by Syracuse’s stiff 2-3 zone defense.
It was arguably the matchup awaiting us all along, as Villanova has been an underrated 2-seed throughout the tournament, and aside from a gritty affair with a Kansas team that was perceived to be the best team in the nation, the cats made quick work of everyone else they took on during March Madness.
North Carolina didn’t have many slug-fests, either, and many could argue that it was them – not Kansas – that was the true #1 team in the nation this year. The Tar Heels certainly sport one of the best coaches of all-time in Williams, boast arguably the top impact player in Brice Johnson and might even have the best pure depth of any team in the country.
NCAA Title Game Odds
North Carolina needed both Kansas and Michigan State to exit March Madness before Vegas deemed them the team to beat in this tournament, but they’ve looked the part this whole time anyways, and on Tuesday night will march into the national title game as -2.5 favorites over the Villanova Wildcats.
The spread makes sense with two extremely talented, deep and well-coached teams. Both teams have had a little bit of adversity in some form during their run, but also have otherwise exercised total dominance during the tournament for the most part.
That should help make for a hard-fought game that goes down to the wire, even though these teams matchup in a very odd way when it comes to size and offensive ability.
There is very little wiggle room for this matchup, but both offenses are capable of bringing the goods, putting the gaudy 149.5 Total in play.
Villanova starts out as the sexier play due to taking down Kansas, having the more explosive offense from outside and also a 5-0 run straight up/against the spread through the tourney. Both teams bring terrific arguments to the table, though, so let’s take it past the odds and break down why each have a very real shot at winning college basketball’s top honors.
Why UNC Wins
North Carolina only has one glaring weakness: their pedestrian outside shooting. The Tar Heels only hit at about a 31% clip from deep on the year and if you bring the offense and they can’t hit their three’s, they can be in trouble.
They do defend well, are rather deep and have as much talent as any team in the nation. They also have an in-game strategist and guru in Roy Williams, as well as the game’s biggest man-eater down low in Brice Johnson, who can score easily on anyone and also take over games defensively as a rim protector and glass cleaner.
Against a Villanova team that tends to run small ball and beat teams with their quickness via four stout guards, there is little doubt North Carolina possesses the size, strength and toughness to do as they please down low on both sides.
The kicker will be what happens on the outside, which could mean North Carolina forces Villanova into bad shots or simply poor shooting, or they show up from deep and hit their own outside shots.
If they can do just one of those and Brice Johnson can continue to dominate like he has throughout the tournament, North Carolina can earn their fourth straight victory over the Wildcats in the NCAA tourney and also get Williams has second ever NCAA men’s college basketball title.
Why Villanova Wins
History exits to be made and Jay Wright is as due as it gets. The long-time Villanova head coach is already an elite sideline presence, yet he’s never captured that elusive college basketball title despite getting his team deep into March Madness numerous times in the past. Villanova as a school hasn’t claimed the top prize since 1985, either.
There is more to this team that just making history, as they’ve been red hot since mid-December and have really done a great job distancing themselves from most of their competition during this tourney. A complete dismantling of a good Oklahoma squad in their Final Four game puts them over the top and locks them in as a legit threat to take down the Tar Heels.
But how do they actually do it? It’s going to be all about guard play, as few can run as fluidly as Villanova can, and when they’re connecting from deep, they’re awfully tough to keep up with. That’s going to mean the likes of Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart will need to come with hot jumps and the Wildcats will also have to both force North Carolina into shooting (and missing) the deep ball. They held Oklahoma to a woeful 31% from the floor, so that does remain entirely possible.
Villanova undoubtedly could be in trouble down low against Brice Johnson, but if they execute their offense the way they have all tournament and North Carolina continues to live up to their weak outside shooting ways, the Wildcats just might have enough to become champions.
This could be a classic offense vs. defense battle, as the Tar Heels are the 9th best offense (83 points per game) in the nation, while Villanova sports the 11th best defense (63 points allowed per game).
That being said, this works both ways (neither is bad offensively or defensively) and it makes sense that Vegas has worked this out to a virtual pick-em. Villanova has dominated every game where they haven’t been challenged, and the only game they were matched blow for blow, they ended up being Kansas in. North Carolina, meanwhile, hasn’t really struggled at all and it’s hard to actually use that against them.
Ultimately, the Tar Heels have only one glaring weakness, and it may never matter. Their defense might be good enough to put the skids on the Wildcats insane run, while having the top player in the game in Brice Johnson is usually a pretty big deal. They also have Marcus Paige and Isaiah Hicks and in general are very balanced and deep across the board.
Size is what is going to decide this game, though. Both teams can defend and score, but the Wildcats do not have the size to stop Johnson or really limit North Carolina inside on either end, in general. Hot shooting from Villanova and awful shooting from the Tar Heels could combat that, but in a tight game, I don’t think that’s how it plays out. Coaching could have a distinct impact here, too, while this could be Roy Williams’ swan song if he wants it to be, too.
Expect a very good game that doesn’t get decided until late, but we like the Tar Heels to win and cover.
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