With the Final Four set to get underway on Saturday evening, we will see the best of what college basketball has to offer this year out in Phoenix. While each team remaining has a fair shot at cutting down the nets Monday night, *in my mind I’m going with (North) Carolina.
*witty James Taylor reference, hehe
Here’s why I’m making the case for the Tar Heels to win their sixth NCAA Tournament in school history.
KEY PLAYERS: Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks
Picking apart a North Carolina roster which has an insane surplus of talent up and down its bench to only talk about a couple of key players is a tough task.
However, for the Tar Heels to win the National Championship, they will definitely have to rely on the services of ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson and their No. 1 rebounder, Kennedy Meeks.
Jackson has been on a tear so far in the tournament, averaging 19.7 PGG, 6.2 RPG and 4.2 APG through Carolina’s four games. Jackson is a consistent threat whose length causes a nightmare for teams to try and defend and thus can stretch the floor.
His mid-range game is also among the best in college basketball.
For Meeks, he is the key for Carolina’s success in the post. Although, he has only scored in the single-digits in his last two games, his rebounding numbers are outstanding, averaging 11.2 RPG through the tournament.
Each of his 17 rebounds against Kentucky in the Elite Eight was extremely important in the Heels’ 75-73 victory. He’s experienced, tough and will beat his opponent for the board.
MATCH-UP PROBLEM: Post-play
North Carolina is one of the best rebounding teams in the country and the best one in the Final Four by a long shot.
Averaging 45.3 RPG as a team and getting an offensive rebound on 40 percent of their missed shots, UNC holds a distinctive advantage over the rest of their opponents. This is especially true when it comes to their match-up against Oregon on Saturday, whose only viable rebounding threat is Jordan Bell versus multiple great rebounders for the Heels like Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, and Jackson.
The other three teams in Phoenix are no pushovers, of course.
However, Carolina’s ability to crash the boards like they do gives them the edge against all other opponents. This will for sure come in handy in any close game, whether the Heels are taking away second chances for their opponents or creating opportunities for themselves.
WHY THEY’LL WIN IT ALL: Experience and hunger
None of us will ever forget when Villanova’s Kris Jenkins sank a three-pointer as time expired to win the National Championship last year in Houston. Guess who else definitely hasn’t forgotten.
The team on the opposing side of that shot, North Carolina.
I feel like the Tar Heels are hell-bent on capturing the title this time to erase all of their pain from last year and there are plenty of players on UNC’s roster who played in that game. Which brings me to my next point: the experience of this team.
UNC’s starting lineup consists of two seniors and three juniors, all of whom have been here before. They won’t be rattled.
It’s also not just the players who have experience, too. Roy Williams has won two National Titles and this is his ninth appearance in a Final Four. No other coach in Phoenix has ever been to one before.
You could potentially make the argument that South Carolina is the team of destiny, but after UNC beat Kentucky the way they did and their comeback against Arkansas in the second round, I just don’t see any other team in the Final Four stopping the Tar Heels at all.