The NCAA title game is finally here. Will No. 1 Kansas prevail, or will the No. 8 seed UNC Tar Heels continue their magical run.
Our experts -- Adam Burke, Tim Murray, Greg Peterson, Wes Reynolds, Jonathan Von Tobel, Dave Tuley and Matt Youmans -- give their picks on the game.
Best bets: 52-55-1
Odds are consensus from VSiN's March Madness Vegas Odds Page.
All times Eastern.
No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (-4, 152) vs. No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels
Tuley: It’s hard to think of college basketball blue-blood North Carolina as a Cinderella story, yet here the Tar Heels are as a No. 8 seed on a 5-0 SU and ATS roll with three of those wins as underdogs over Baylor, UCLA and Duke. They’re playing above their regular-season power rating and I made this line Kansas -2.5. As great as Kansas is also playing (obviously 5-0 SU to get to the title game), they’re just 3-2 ATS as they failed to cover in their wins over Creighton and Providence, so that bodes well for the Tar Heels staying within the spread.
We were relieved that UNC double-double machine Armando Bacot wasn’t seriously hurt late vs. Duke and can stand up to Kansas’ big men. As of early Monday morning, this is mostly available at North Carolina + 4, so shop for the hook if you can get it. In a tournament of underdogs coming through, we’re counting on one more.
Pick: North Carolina + 4.5
Burke: I’m not sure we’ve appreciated enough what Kansas has done in this tournament. The Jayhawks haven’t seemed to sweat much in any game and the two that were “close” featured outliers. Kansas was 2-of-15 from 3 against Providence in the 66-61 win and Creighton was 12-of-28 from 3 in Kansas’s 79-72 win. Otherwise, the Jayhawks have wins by 27, 26 and 16 points.
The Tar Heels have used some tremendous offensive efficiency to get to this point, scoring at least 1.064 points per possession in every game. A lack of turnovers on defense doesn’t become a problem if you score a lot with the basketball and that has been a winning formula for UNC in this tournament and at the tail end of the regular season.
The problem here is that Kansas can definitely go bucket-for-bucket with UNC. Duke did and that game was very close throughout. The difference is that Kansas is a much better defensive team than the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels have gone through a much harder path to get to this point and deserve all the credit in the world, but Kansas matches up very well here.
Pick: Kansas -4
Peterson: Both teams notched 81 points in their Final Four game, and these are two of the most efficient offenses in the country: Kansas 18th in the country in points scored on a per possession basis and North Carolina 29th.
While North Carolina struggled on defense, ranking outside of the top 125 in points allowed on a per possession basis, Kansas enters having allowed 65 points or fewer in eight of its last nine games.
The Jayhawks’ strength has been defending the 3-point arc, as opponents are shooting 27.2% from 3-point range their past 14 games prior to Saturday’s clash with Villanova.
The Tar Heels also are not good at putting pressure on teams, ranking 357th (out of 358 Division I teams) in turnovers forced on a per possession basis in road and neutral court games.
North Carolina got only two of its 81 points in their Final Four win from the bench against Villanova. Kansas is a deeper team and superior on defense -- I see the title returning to Lawrence.
Pick: Kansas -4