March Madness Finale: Championship Monday

On the first of April, 2017, I lay on the couch just before the 8:05 p.m. tip off of the Oregon Ducks versus the North Carolina Tarheels, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have just defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks by a score of 77-73 at University of Phoenix Stadium. I take one last look at my bracket that I made before the beginning of the tournament, where I had picked the Tarheels to win it all.

After that game concluded, the championship game was set. The North Carolina Tarheels had narrowly defeated the Oregon Ducks 77-76. This set the match up for the Gonzaga Bulldogs to face off against the Tarheels in the national championship. This would mean one of the most historic franchises would be facing off against a team making their first ever finals appearance.

The Tarheels are led by Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams, who has already won two national titles with North Carolina and is considered college basketball royalty. In the program’s storied history, the Tarheels have won 5 national titles and have reached the Final Four a number of 20 times. They boast many famous players who have passed through the system, such as NBA Hall of Famer James Worthy, and arguably the greatest player in basketball history, Michael Jordan. This year they have super stars such as forwards Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson, and guard Joel Berry III.

On the other side is the Gonzaga Bulldogs, the overall number one seed in the country, and the often overlooked team throughout the whole tournament. Many thought that their “easy” regular season schedule helped them gain a higher seed than they deserved, and it showed in many of the brackets created including my own. But in the last week of the tournament, they have defeated teams such as the West Virginia Mountaineers and Northwestern Wildcats, and poised to prove all the doubters wrong, They’re here to win their first ever national championship in program history, the same year they reached their first Final Four. Gonzaga is led by veteran coach Mark Few, forward Zach Collins, center Przemek Karnowski, and guard Nigel Williams-Goss. The Bulldogs had the best record in college basketball this year finishing their regular season 37-1 and 17-1 in conference play.

So, who exactly has the advantage in this championship game? I like the Tarheels to win it all. They are my original pick from the beginning, however, I expect a very close game. The determining factor could be the battle on the boards as both teams have great big men to their credit. Joel Berry III comes into the game a little hobbled with an ankle injury, but the Bulldogs are not completely healthy either. Center Karnowski had an eye injury in the semifinal game and could be coming off the bench in the season finale. With all that being said, I’m predicting a very close final game with the Tarheels coming out on top in a defensive battle by the score of 71-66.