NORTH CAROLINA (33-6)
East regional champ, No. 1 seed
ROAD TO THE FINAL
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Defeated No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast 83-67
Defeated No. 9 Providence 85-66
Defeated No. 5 Indiana 101-86
Defeated No. 6 Notre Dame 88-74
Defeated No. 10 Syracuse 83-66
Greatest strength vs. Villanova: Inside play. North Carolina will (and should) play to its strength to the very end. The Tar Heels have Brice Johnson, and with respect to Providence’s Ben Bentil and Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste, they haven’t faced a team with a better post presence in this tournament. That won’t change Monday. Toss in Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, and North Carolina has a considerable advantage in the paint.
Greatest vulnerability vs. Villanova: Defending the perimeter. This isn’t a problem that’s created too many headaches for the Tar Heels in this tournament, even though they’ve given up more 3-pointers than they’ve made in each of the last four games. Villanova has shot at least 46 percent in four of its five NCAA tournament games, including a 61.1 percent clip in Saturday’s rout of Oklahoma. Making outside shots has always been the path to success against North Carolina, but no one in this tournament has managed to take it … yet, anyway.
Monday X-factor: Theo Pinson. Given the makeup of Villanova’s roster and its perimeter-oriented lineup, it’s not hard to imagine this turning into Pinson’s sort of game. He was a pivotal part of North Carolina’s regional final defeat of Notre Dame, but logged just 13 minutes (with five points and five rebounds) against Syracuse on Saturday. If (and more likely when) North Carolina goes small, look for Pinson to draw a premium defensive assignment against the Wildcats.
3: North Carolina has defeated Villanova on the way to three of its last four NCAA tournament titles, knocking off the Wildcats in 1982 (regional semifinal), 2005 (regional final) and 2009 (Final Four).
83: North Carolina has scored at least 83 points in each of its first five NCAA tournament games, the first team to do so while reaching the championship game since Michigan in 1989.
South regional champ, No. 2 seed
ROAD TO THE FINAL
Defeated No. 15 UNC Asheville 86-56
Defeated No. 7 Iowa 87-68
Defeated No. 3 Miami 92-69
Defeated No. 1 Kansas 64-59
Defeated No. 2 Oklahoma 95-51
Greatest advantage vs. North Carolina: Defense and tempo. North Carolina has seen other teams in this tournament, notably Indiana and Notre Dame, with great efficiency at the offensive end. Neither could slow down the Tar Heels, but Villanova might be different. The Wildcats have stymied Iowa, Miami, Kansas and Oklahoma in succession (all top-25 teams in offensive efficiency, per KenPom.com), and they are capable of controlling the pace of a game even better than most of North Carolina’s postseason foes. Expect a game closer to 60 possessions apiece in regulation.
Greatest vulnerability vs. North Carolina: Size. Daniel Ochefu is probably the most underappreciated player in this year’s Final Four, given how much he does on the interior to keep the perimeter-oriented Wildcats balanced. That said, he’s the only player on Villanova’s roster taller than 6 feet 8 and North Carolina doesn’t waste much time going right at opposing post players – to score, to get them in foul trouble and quite often both. Ochefu needs a strong game for the Wildcats to win a title.
Monday X-factor: Kris Jenkins. The junior is an undersized power forward with an exceptionally sweet shooting stroke. Jenkins connects on 38.4 percent of his 3-point attempts, one of four Villanova starters to shoot 35 percent or better from the outside. However, Jenkins is the only one who often finds himself with a post player guarding him. His presence could prompt North Carolina to go small, and to do so quickly.
4: The Wildcats have had four different players lead them in scoring during the NCAA tournament: Guards Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart and forwards Kris Jenkins and Daniel Ochefu. Balance remains one of Villanova’s steadiest strengths entering the last night of the season.
44: Villanova defeated Oklahoma in the semifinals by 44 points, the largest margin in Final Four history and tied for the 13th most lopsided game of any NCAA tournament game.
North Carolina: Roy Williams is 365-107 in 13 seasons at North Carolina and 783-208 in 28 seasons overall. He is 70-23 with eight Final Four appearances in 26 trips to the NCAA tournament. Monday marks his fifth trip to the national title game; his Kansas teams lost on the last day of the season in 1991 and 2003 and his North Carolina teams claimed NCAA championships in 2005 and 2009.
Villanova: Jay Wright is 353-157 in 15 seasons at Villanova and 475-242 in 22 seasons overall. He is 19-12 with two Final Four appearances in 13 trips to the NCAA tournament. He will coach in his first national title game Monday.
North Carolina leads 11-4 and won the most recent meeting 78-71 in the round of 64 of the 2013 NCAA tournament.
PREVIOUS NCAA FINALS
North Carolina (5-4)
1946: Oklahoma A&M 43, North Carolina 40 (New York)
1957: North Carolina 54, Kansas 53, 3OT (Kansas City, Mo.)
1968: UCLA 78, North Carolina 55 (Los Angeles)
1977: Marquette 67, North Carolina 59 (Atlanta)
1981: Indiana 63, North Carolina 50 (Philadelphia)
1982: North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62 (New Orleans)
1993: North Carolina 77, Michigan 71 (New Orleans)
2005: North Carolina 75, Illinois 70 (St. Louis)
2009: North Carolina 89, Michigan State 72 (Detroit)
1971: UCLA 68, Villanova 62 (Houston)
1985: Villanova 66, Georgetown 64 (Lexington, Ky.)