North Carolina and Kansas are just the third pair of teams to meet multiple times in the men's college basketball National Championship. Read on for our best against the spread and Over/Under picks in the North Carolina-Kansas National Championship game.
In late January, North Carolina sat at 12-6 and had lost consecutive games by at least 22 points to Miami and Wake Forest. To say that first-year head coach Hubert Davis turned things around from that point is an understatement. The Tar Heels enter Monday's game winners of 17 of 20 and look to match the 1985 Villanova Wildcats as the lowest seed (No. 8 seed) to win a National Championship.
Kansas makes its sixth appearance in the National Championship in school history and head coach Bill Self's third. The Jayhawks have been favored in the National Championship only one other time in the last 60 years (-5 versus Syracuse in 2003) but lost that game outright. This would be the Jayhawks' first championship since 2008, and they are looking to avenge a loss to Kentucky in New Orleans in the title game 10 years ago.
Here are my picks and predictions for Monday's National Championship game between North Carolina and Kansas (odds via BetMGM; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).
North Carolina vs. Kansas Matchup Info
Date/Time: Monday, April 4, 9:20 p.m. ETTV: TBSLocation: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, LA
North Carolina vs. Kansas Odds Analysis
Kansas is either favored by four or 4.5 points, depending on the sportsbook. North Carolina has covered the spread in all five NCAA Tournament games thus far and is 9-1 ATS in its last 10. The Jayhawks are 7-2 ATS in their previous nine, with the two non-covers coming in the tournament. There has been good early two-way betting action, as 54% of the tickets and 55% of the cash is on the underdog Tar Heels.
The Over/Under also fluctuates by a half-point depending on the sportsbook, as it can be found at 153 or 153.5 points. The Over is 6-2 in North Carolina's last eight games as underdogs and is 6-1-1 in Kansas' last eight Monday games. Compared to the point spread, the betting action is much more one-sided on the total, as 71% of the tickets and 74% of the cash have backed the Over.
North Carolina vs. Kansas Picks
North Carolina +4.5 (-110) ????Under 153.5 (-110) ??
SEE ALSO: All March Madness Picks
North Carolina vs. Kansas Predictions
North Carolina +4.5 (-110)
From a seeding standpoint, this National Championship game looks like a mismatch as the No. 1 seed Jayhawks meet the No. 8 seed Tar Heels. However, if one analyzed each team's body of work throughout this tournament, most would say North Carolina has played more like the No. 1 seed.
The Tar Heels have arguably had the much more difficult path to reach the finals. The bracket broke right for North Carolina entering the Elite Eight, as they had to beat the first-ever No. 15 seed to make it that far for the right to go to the Final Four. However, the Tar Heels beat two Final Four teams from last year in back-to-back games (Baylor and UCLA) before that and outlasted a Duke team that entered the national semifinals as the favorites to cut down the nets. By comparison, three of Kansas' five tournament wins have come against No. 9 seeds or lower, and two of those wins were against shorthanded Creighton and Villanova teams.
The paths that each team had to navigate make it more impressive that the Tar Heels' scoring margin (winning by an average of 14 points per game) is the best of any team in the tournament.
North Carolina's dominance in March is largely due to the elevated play of point guard Caleb Love. Love's 28 points against Duke were the most by a UNC player in a Final Four game since James Worthy in 1982. In addition, Love's three highest-scoring games this season have all come in the NCAA Tournament. If the sophomore turns in one more magical performance on Monday night, the Tar Heels have a great chance to cut down the nets.
Under 153.5 (-110)
The Jayhawks scored 81 points on a Villanova team that had allowed an average of 56.5 points in its previous eight games. Kansas got great performances from two of its best players, David McCormack and Ochai Agbaji. McCormack scored a season-high 25 points, and he and Agbaji combined for 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting in the first 20 minutes. However, the rest of the Jayhawks shot 6-for-21 in the first half, including 3-of-10 from 3-point range.
That is concerning for Kansas against North Carolina, as the Tar Heels have the perfect foil for the Jayhawks duo. Leaky Black is one of the best on-ball defenders that Agbaji has seen all season. Thus, we expect Agabji to revert to the player he was through the tournament's first three games, when he averaged 10.3 ppg and shot 2-for-12 from 3-point range.
In addition, Armando Bacot has been a double-double machine, as his 30th double-double against Duke broke a tie with Tim Duncan for the most in ACC history. Thus, Bacot will provide a lot more resistance for McCormack than Villanova's Eric Dixon did. We expect McCormack to be held to single digits like he was in five of seven games leading up to the Final Four.
Kansas and Villanova set the record for the most combined 3-pointers in a Final Four game with 26. However, UNC will not need to help as much on McCormack in the post and should, therefore, defend the perimeter better. And suppose Kansas' supporting cast (Remy Martin, Christian Braun, etc.) does not play better than it did in the Final Four. In that case, the Jayhawks' ceiling is limited offensively given the success we expect the Tar Heels to have defending Agbaji and McCormack.
Where to Bet on North Carolina-Kansas Picks
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North Carolina-Kansas national championship picks made 4/3/2022 at 8:11 a.m.