National Title Game Preview: Everything you need to know about Villanova vs. North Carolina

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WHEN: Monday, 9:19 p.m. ET on TBS

MAJOR STORYLINES: The question that everyone wants an answer to is whether or not this is going to be the last time that we see Roy Williams on a college sideline, and if there is anything that Ol’ Roy has made clear this week, it’s that this is not going to be the end of his tenure with the Tar Heels. What it may be, however, is his third national title, which will put him on par with some of the legends of the coaching profession: the only other coaches that have at least three national titles are John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun.

That’s mighty fine company to be in, particularly for a head coach like Williams, who has dealt with his fair share of criticism throughout the years. Where as the others on that list tend to be guys that are giants in the profession, Williams is never thought out as or mentioned in the same breath with the best of all-time. This would be his third time in the last 12 years. Would that be enough to make him considered one of the very best ever?

Jay Wright is in a different situation. He’s looking for that first national title, for that piece of evidence that he’s one of the greats — a guy that will deserve a look from the Hall of Fame — as opposed to just another really good coach that sustained a program for a long, long time. Beating the Heels in the title game would be quite the feather in his cap.

But it would also make him one of the most unique national title winners, as he’s not doing it with a team that is loaded with future NBA stars. Josh Hart will probably play in the NBA, and I would bet that Mikal Bridges will end up there as well. I’m not sure either of them are destined to be stars at that level, however, and I don’t think that there is another pro on the roster. It’s not often that teams without an abundance of NBA talent win the whole thing, and while that probably says something about the year in which Villanova is winning the title, it should also tell you a thing or two about the guy that is coaching them along the way.

KEY MATCHUP: Kris Jenkins and whoever the Tar Heels decide they are going to use to try and slow him down. Jenkins has gone from a recruiting afterthought to an undersized, under-athletic gunner … to the guy that has been the most dangerous offensive weapon for the Wildcats. Perhaps more relevantly, he’s become the matchup problem for Villanova. He’s a skilled scorer with a lethal three-point stroke and the best pump fake in college basketball. He draws more fouls on three-point shots than anyone in the country.

He’s also now able to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, which creates a bit of an issue: Who’s checking Jenkins? Will they put the slower-footed Meeks on him and allow Brice Johnson to act as a rim protector or will they do the opposite and let the stronger Meeks try to battle Ochefu in the post?

And just as important: How will Jenkins handle post defense and defensive rebounding against the Tar Heel big men?

X-FACTOR: Who will guard Daniel Ochefu, who has suddenly turned into arguably the most irreplaceable¬†offensive piece for the Wildcats. Ochefu is a 6-foot-11 center who developed into one of the most consistent and reliable post scorers in the country this season. That’s relevant because he is going to get quite a few chances to go one-on-one against UNC’s big men on Monday night. The Wildcats put four shooters on the floor, making it really difficult for opponents to double-team any post touch. If Ochefu can find a way to be effective on the block, it would for the Tar Heels to make a change on the defensive end.

POINT SPREAD: North Carolina -2.5

THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Can North Carolina run offense against Villanova? The Wildcats do not get the credit they should for how good they’ve been defensively. They don’t have many great individual defenders — Mikal Bridges is a problem, and Josh Hart did the heaviest-lifting in slowing down Buddy Hield — but this is a team that plays tough, physical and, most importantly, disciplined team defense while constantly changing the looks that they use on that end of the floor. It’s tough to execute against, and we saw that in full effect on Saturday night. Will UNC have an easier time of it than Oklahoma did?
  2. Which Josh Hart shows up on Monday night, and just how physical will UNC wings be willing to be with him. Hart is a nightmare to play against. He’s annoying to play against, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. He’s a junkyard dog in every sense of the word, and UNC hasn’t always dealt with guys like that in an effective manner.
  3. What position does Theo Pinson play? Personally I think that he is going to play a big role on Monday night just because he matches up well with Villanova’s personal. UNC needs him to play the majority of his minutes at the three, which will mean that their size is effective. If he’s playing at the four, it means that Jenkins won the battle of the bigs and UNC had to adjust.

CBT PREDICTION: Villanova wins the National Title and Josh Hart gets named Final Four MOP.