North Carolina (32-7, 14-4 ACC) vs. Gonzaga (37-1, 17-1 WCC)
Glendale, Ariz. – University of Phoenix Stadium
Monday, 9:20 p.m. ET
CBS (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery)
“Certainly look at what this team's done, we make an assumption that they're as good as anything that's ever walked the soil up in Spokane…. I've had some really, really tough teams. I've had some really close teams. I've had some teams that have been crazy efficient on the offensive end and ones that have been pretty darned good on the defensive end that probably didn't get credit for it. These guys are all of that. All of it.” – Gonzaga coach Mark Few
“I really don't think about it a lot. I really don't. It's this team. I'm coaching a new group of kids. And making it back to the national championship game is amazing. Oh, you did it that last year? Well, that still makes it even more amazing kind of thing… it's an amazing thing. And 351 teams start playing and this is the second year in a row we were one of two left.” – UNC coach Roy Williams on returning to the national championship game
“It’s a dream that’s come true to get back there. Now we’ve got to play better. Mark’s team has been fantastic all year long. They only lost one game and that is hard to imagine.” – Williams
Heels Return to Monday Night: After 12 long months, the Tar Heels have fought their way back to the national championship game. With a 77-76 win over Oregon in Saturday’s Final Four matchup, UNC secured a spot in the title game for the 11th time in school history. Kennedy Meeks and Joel Berry combined to miss four free throws in the final 5.8 seconds, but a pair of offensive rebounds prevented Oregon from attempting a game-winning shot. In his penultimate game as a Tar Heel, Meeks delivered quite possibly the best performance of his career, scoring a game-high 25 points while also grabbing 14 rebounds, eight of which were on the offensive glass. UNC held the Ducks to 26.9 percent shooting from the 3-point line and forced 16 turnovers.
How the Zags Got Here: In what can only be described as a David vs. Goliath matchup on paper, Gonzaga was able to outlast the overachieving South Carolina Gamecocks, 77-73, en route to the program’s first national championship game berth. With 10 minutes left in Saturday night’s game, the Zags held a 65-51 lead and looked well on their way to the finale in Phoenix. Consistent to their NCAA Tournament form, however, Frank Martin’s Gamecocks charged back with a 16-0 run to take the lead with seven minutes to play. Few’s team was able to weather the storm and quickly respond with a 7-0 spurt, retaking the lead and never relinquishing it. Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss led the Bulldogs with 23 points and six assists. The Zags’ 300-pound big man, Przemek Karnowski, scored 13 points despite missing part of the game after absorbing a blow to the face.
Gonzaga Spotlight: Few wasn’t quite sure what he had before the season began. What he has, of course, is a Gonzaga team that’s won 37 of its 38 games with a 22.3-point scoring margin. Few’s team dominated their West Coast Conference opponents, winning the regular season and conference tournament. The Zags are headed by Washington transfer and WCC Player of the Year Nigel Williams-Goss, who leads the team with 16.9 points and 4.7 assists per game. Williams-Goss is the team’s floor general, but is supplemented nicely with fellow backcourt mates Jordan Matthews and Josh Perkins. Gonzaga is the second-most efficient shooting team in the country, making 50.8 percent of its shots. That efficiency translated to their high scoring margins and average of 83.1 points per game, which is good for 15th in the country. Few’s team is just as good, if not better, on the defensive end – ranking first in adjusted defensive efficiency (86.6), per kenpom.com. The Zags are extremely versatile while defending, constantly switching to help gain the right matchups.
Freshman Phenom: Gonzaga would not be where it is today without the major contributions of freshman forward Zach Collins. The McDonald’s All-American has been instrumental in this postseason run. After underwhelming performances in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, Collins rediscovered his swagger in his team’s win over South Carolina. The versatile big man scored 14 points, including a critical 3-pointer in the game’s final minutes, while also tallying four assists and six blocks. Collins has proven himself as both a rim protector and legitimate scoring threat on the interior.
Matchup to Watch: Kennedy Meeks. Przemek Karnowski. Two of the biggest men in the NCAA Tournament will duel it out underneath for the national title. The 7-foot-1 Polish big man is unlike any that the Tar Heels have seen this season. Along with his 300-pound frame, Karnowski is an intelligent passer who is able to read floor spacing as well as any frontcourt player in the nation. Meeks, however, is the better rebounder of the two and will be able to use his athleticism to contest every board. Karnowski’s frontcourt companion is junior forward Jonathan Williams, who is more of a stretch-four and will test Isaiah Hicks on the defensive end. UNC’s advantage in the paint comes in its depth – while the Zags have Collins coming off the bench, the Tar Heels will counter with Tony Bradley and Luke Maye. The 6-foot-10 Bradley will be able to matchup with Collins, size-wise, and his presence on the court will allow Maye to stretch the floor a little more.
Last Meeting: North Carolina defeated Gonzaga, 98-77, in the Sweet 16 of the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Tyler Hansbrough led the Tar Heels with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Ty Lawson added 19 points. The win was North Carolina’s 99th in NCAA Tournament history.
Series History: The all-time series is tied, 1-1.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 14.5 ppg, 3.6 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 11.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 18.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 6.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) –7.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 4.6 ppg, 2.4 apg
32 Luke Maye (6-8, 235, So.) – 5.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg
Projected Gonzaga Starters:
3 Jonathan Williams (6-9, 228, Jr.) – 10.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg
4 Jordan Matthews (6-4, 203, Sr.) – 10.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg
5 Nigel Williams-Goss (6-3, 195, Jr.) – 16.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg
13 Josh Perkins (6-3, 190, So.) – 8.0 ppg, 3.1 apg
24 Przemek Karnowski (7-1, 300, Sr.) – 12.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg
32 Zach Collins (7-0, 230, Fr.) – 10.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg
0 Silas Melson (6-4, 195, Jr.) – 7.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg