So after all the surprises and unexpectedness that March Madness has become known for, Villanova and North Carolina are the last two teams standing in this year’s NCAA Tournament and will face off Monday night for the national title. The Wildcats have dismantled their opponents in this Tournament, including a record 44-point victory over Oklahoma in the Final Four. Villanova shot a blistering 71.4 percent from the field, putting to rest any thoughts of poor shooting in the dome. The Wildcats’ defense held national player of the year Buddy Hield down, making the rest of the Sooners look bad in the process. It was quite incredible to watch such a mismatch this late in the Field of 68.
On the other side you have North Carolina, which took care of business against Syracuse 83-66. The Tar Heels have shot 50 percent or better in each of their last four Tournament games and are rolling offensively. They bring so much depth and talent to the floor with waves of big men and guards off the bench. Carolina has covered in eight of its last 10 games and is arguably the best team in the country.
This matchup is an intriguing one for many reasons. First off, Villanova hasn't been tested inside as much as they will be on Monday night. Brice Johnson should be able to find whatever he wants against the Cats. Nova will have to decide what part of Carolina’s offense it wants to take away, but the Heels will adapt and score anyways. Marcus Paige got hot in the second half on Saturday and he's been the difference during their postseason winning streak.
Villanova brings a lot of weapons to the table with Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins leading the way. Daniel Ochefu will have to stay out of foul trouble because Darryl Reynolds would be a bit overwhelmed on the inside. The one negative for Jay Wright’s team in the total domination of Oklahoma was the amount of offensive rebounds the Wildcats allowed (19 of Sooners’ 29 total rebounds).
The Cats have been an underdog just twice this season going 1-1 in those games (1-1 ATS). They have covered in 13 of their 18 non-conference games and are 20-17 ATS overall. North Carolina, meanwhile, is just 19-19 ATS and 9-3 ATS in neutral court games. The line opened at Carolina -2 and quickly went up to 2.5 or 3 depending upon where you look. The total has maintained at 151 meaning this one should be high scoring. If that's the case, I think the team out of the ACC wins. I just don't like the Wildcats in a shootout. That said, we are seeing better defense from the Tar Heels. I think North Carolina gets a close win in the end.
Prediction: North Carolina 75-71
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
(Top photo courtesy of NRGPark.com)