It’s a chalk national championship game on Monday night as No. 1 Gonzaga looks for the first championship in school history but is a slight College Basketball betting underdog against fellow No. 1 seed North Carolina, which tries for the sixth title in its history.
Gonzaga vs North Carolina 2017 National Championship Odds, Preview & Pick
Why Bet on Gonzaga?
The Zags (37-1) were statistically the best team in the country this season and have just the one loss so it shouldn’t shock anyone that they are here. Coach Mark Few’s career winning percentage of .818 is the best in the country among active coaches. No. 2 is North Carolina’s Roy Williams at .790. In the past 50 years, teams making their first national championship appearance are just 8-15. No school has won its first title in its first appearance since Maryland in 2002.
Only one team — Gonzaga — shot higher than 40 percent from the floor in Saturday’s two Final Four games. The Zags beat No. 7 South Carolina 77-73. Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points. The Bulldogs’ 7-footers, senior Przemek Karnowski and freshman Zach Collins, took care of things on both ends of the court, combining for 18 rebounds. Collins also had a career-high six blocks.
The freshman Collins’ 15.3 block percentage in the NCAA Tournament action a good deal higher than his whole-season number (9.6), it would have ranked No. 1 in Division I this if sustained across all of 2016-17.
The Zags scored their 77 points vs. South Carolina in 69 possessions against the No. 2 rated defense in the country. Gonzaga had more paint points in the first 30 minutes of the game than South Carolina hadallowed per game (22.5) in the tournament to date. The Zags have the country’s best defense.
Expect a close game. Since 1985, there have been six national finals contested between No. 1 seeds: North Carolina vs. Michigan in 1993, Connecticut vs. Duke in 1999, North Carolina vs. Illinois in 2005, Florida vs. Ohio State in 2007, Kansas vs. Memphis in 2008 and Duke vs. Wisconsin in 2015. All of those finals were decided by single digits, with an average margin of victory of just 5.8 points.
Gonzaga didn’t play any other ACC schools this season. The Zags have played North Carolina since being blown out in the regional semifinal of the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga had one of the best records against the spread in all of college basketball this season (23-10- 2 ATAS), beating the oddsmakers’ number 69.7 percent of the time and beating the spread by an average of 4.9 points per game.
Why Bet on North Carolina?
UNC advanced with a 77-76 win over No. 3 Oregon despite missing four straight late free throws – getting the offensive rebound both times. Kennedy Meeks had one of the best games of his career (11-of-13 FGs) with 25 points and 14 rebounds but the rest of the team shot only 25 percent. Junior point guard Joel Berry II went 2-for- 14 against the Ducks – Berry is playing with two sprained ankles and didn’t show the explosion he typically does. It was the lowest field-goal percentage in a win (.371) for UNC all season.
North Carolina was the nation’s top rebounding team this season, grabbing an average of 13 more boards than their opponents. Against the Ducks, the rebounding battle was even (43 each), though North Carolina got five more on the offensive glass, which resulted in 19 second-chance points, 10 more shots and, eventually, the win. In five tournament games Meeks has rebounded 17.4 percent of theHeels' missed shots, even better than his whole-season number of 16.4.
This would be Williams’ third national championship, a number that would jump him ahead of Rick Pitino (two) and place the UNC coach all by himself in second place among active coaches. Only Mike Krzyzewski (five) has more rings among coaches now working — and, all-time, Williams would be tied with Jim Calhoun (Connecticut) and Bob Knight (Indiana), behind only Adolph Rupp (four), Coach K and John Wooden (10).
North Carolina is 5-5 in NCAA Tournament title games. The Heels lost last year to Villanova on Kris Jenkins’ 3-point buzzer-beater. North Carolina is 3-0 all-time against No. 1 seeds in the National Championship Game. The 3 wins are the most of any team.
If the Heels get by the Zags, they’ll become the fourth team in history to win the title the year after losing in the championship game. The three previous instances came from blue blood programs, and one of them is UNC: The Heels lost the 1981 title game to Indiana, 63-50, and beat Georgetown the next year. In 1990, Duke lost 103-93 to UNLV, then beat Kansas 72-65 in in 1991. And in 1997, Kentucky was knocked off 84-79 by Arizona in overtime, then beat Utah 78-69 in 1998.
Gonzaga vs North Carolina 2017 National Championship Pick: North Carolina Tar Heels and the Under
I’d feel much more confident picking UNC if Berry was 100 percent, but we’ll stick with the Heels as they were out pre-tournament pick to win it all.
Tar Heels are 3-0- 1 ATS in their last 4 games following a ATS loss.
Tar Heels are 21-8- 3 ATS in their last 32 neutral site games as a favorite.
Bulldogs are 1-4- 1 ATS in their last 6 NCAA Tournament games.
Bulldogs are 0-3- 1 ATS in their last 4 vs. Atlantic Coast.