Home Sports NCAA championship pick: North Carolina narrowly beats Gonzaga, and here’s why

NCAA championship pick: North Carolina narrowly beats Gonzaga, and here’s why

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Both teams are No. 1 seeds, big and balanced. Both have made their breaks — and received a few. Both have first-rate lead guards but are front-court oriented.

Neither is a team for the ages.

Difficult to game-out a scenario in which it won’t be in doubt in the final minutes.

Here’s a quick case for each, with pick below …

*** The case for Gonzaga

Mentality of an underdog despite being cast as the favorite by analytics and experts.

Three rotation players who are 6-foot-10 or taller and can alter/block shots at the rim.

Forward Johnathan Williams provides excellent option for defending North Carolina’s best player, wing Justin Jackson.

More reliable from the foul line than the Tar Heels in the final minutes.

Big man Przemek Karnowski’s passing skills in the low post create opportunities for the perimeter players.

UNC’s preferred tempo suits the Zags just fine (i.e., no West Virginia pressure).

One of UNC’s most important players, guard Joel Berry, has sprained ankles and isn’t operating near peak effectiveness.

So well coached.

*** The case for North Carolina

Survived a tougher road than Gonzaga (Kentucky and Oregon, compared to Xavier and South Carolina).

Three rotation players who weight 240+ pounds, allowing them to establish and keep position in the post.

All the key players experienced title game pressure last season.

Jackson (20.2 points per game in the NCAAs) capable of taking over the game.

Best offensive rebounding team in the country.

Gonzaga’s preferred tempo suits the Tar Heels just fine.

More shot-makers than Gonzaga in the final minutes of a close game.

So well coached.

Which brings us to …

First round: 4-0-1
Second round: 2-3-0
Sweet 16: 2-1-1
Elite Eight: None
Final Four: 1-1
Total: 9-5-2

All picks against the spread.
Lines taken from vegasinsider.com

Gonzaga (plus-2) vs. North Carolina: It’s a close game — a one- or two-score difference — when the teams return to the court following the under-four-minute TV timeout. Every possession could be decisive. Which team executes better on both ends? Which team is more exacting in its defensive rotations, screen-setting, passing, boxing out and shot making? Gonzaga hasn’t experienced that pressure before. UNC went through it on this night one year ago. Pick: North Carolina. Score: 67-63

*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline

*** The Hotline podcast is available on iTunes.

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