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NCAA Championship Game 2022: Early Preview for North Carolina vs. Kansas | Bleacher Report

North Carolina's Caleb Love (2) celebrates after North Carolina's win against Duke in a college basketball game during the semifinal round of the Men's Final Four NCAA tournament, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in New Orleans.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

The Kansas Jayhawks and North Carolina Tar Heels clinched their spots in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament national championship in much different manners on Saturday night.

Kansas cruised to a victory over the Villanova Wildcats, who were without star guard Justin Moore. The Jayhawks played some of their best basketball of the season against Villanova and in the second half of the Elite Eight win over the Miami Hurricanes.

North Carolina ended the illustrious career of Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski in an epic battle between ACC rivals.

The Tar Heels used the first win over Duke on March 5 to catapult themselves into the Big Dance, where they have played with a ton of confidence.

DraftKings Sportsbook has listed Kansas as a four-point favorite in Monday night’s title clash in New Orleans because of its recent play and rest gained from an easier game, but UNC should give the Jayhawks a strong test.

National Championship Game Info

Date: Monday, April 4

Start Time: 9:20 p.m. ET

TV: TBS

preview

Kansas looked the part of the final No. 1 seed left in the bracket over the last 60 minutes of basketball.

The Jayhawks impressed with their defense in each of the halves against Villanova and the second half against Miami last Sunday.

Kansas improved immensely on the offensive end for its clash with Villanova. The Jayhawks shot 13-of-24 from the three-point line. Bill Self‘s team is shooting 35.5 percent from three-point range this season.

The Big 12 squad gained an early edge down low through David McCormack, who had 25 points and nine rebounds.

McCormack comes into Monday with a ton of confidence after exploiting his size differential against the Villanova players. The Kansas big man faces a much tougher challenge on Monday against Armando Bacot, who pulled down 21 rebounds against Duke.

Bacot suffered an ankle injury toward the end of Saturday’s game. His status of him will be closely monitored over the next 48 hours.

Even if Bacot is almost fully healthy, it may open up an advantage for McCormack, Jalen Wilson and Mitch Lightfoot to exploit in the paint.

Bacot also got himself into foul trouble, and if he is not moving at 100 percent, Kansas could look to take advantage of him potentially being one step slower.

Kansas may also hold an advantage against Brady Manek, who started his college career at Oklahoma.

Manek has been one of North Carolina’s top scorers throughout the tournament run. Kansas could look back to previous meetings with Oklahoma to see what worked and what did not against Manek.

Conversely, Manek has the most experience playing against Kansas on the UNC roster, and his familiarity with the style of play could help the Tar Heels game-plan on short notice.

Monday’s winner might also come down to something as simple as the team with the best shot-makers.

Ochai Agbaji proved why he is Kansas’ best player, as he stepped up with 21 points and six three-pointers against Villanova. That was his highest single-game point total since the Big 12 tournament semifinal on March 11.

Caleb Love has been fantastic for UNC. He had 28 points in Saturday’s win over Duke and 30 points in the Sweet 16 triumph over the UCLA Bruins. If UNC gets Love going early, the ACC squad could match Kansas punch for punch in the backcourt matchup.

If Love and Agbaji play like they did Saturday, we could see a heavyweight battle of top shot-makers decide the national championship.

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