March has come and gone and has brought upon the championship game of two completely different programs. After beating Oregon by just one point in the Final Four, Roy Williams and UNC will be trying to win the school’s sixth NCAA championship. In their 11th appearance, they will meet Gonzaga, in their first game.
Gonzaga doesn’t have a long history of basketball dominance. Their first NCAA tournament entry was in 1995 but since then they have made it every year since 1999. Before this year, they had only made the Elite Eight two times and never the Final Four. The former subject of a HBO documentary, the school from Spokane Wash. will be going up against the premier college program.
The University of North Carolina, far removed from the Michael Jordan and Coach Dean Smith years, have maintained their level of play. After losing last years final to Villanova, UNC will try to overwhelm the Gonzaga team. Joel Berry, Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks were present for the loss to Villanova but have led the team back all year-long. Last years dramatic’s compelled multiple players to come back and go for it again and will be ready to go come tonight.
While UNC has a long history of winning when it “counts”, Gonzaga has been consistently good for nearly two decades. This can be attributed to Head Coach Mark Few. Few led Gonzaga to best record of any team in the AP top 25. The “Zags” have also made every NCAA tournament since Few took over as Head coach (1999). Having 25 or more wins in all but two seasons (23,24) in his time with the school.
Although, UNC has proven their ability to face stiff competition by playing 3 teams ranked higher than a five seed just in the tournament. Gonzaga has played just one team in WVU that was a four seed. They had close wins against eight seed North Western and seventh seed South Carolina. Nigel Williams-Goss, Przemek Karnowski, Josh Perkins and Johnathan Williams will have the responsibility of leading Gonzaga against a team in UNC that’s been there before. Although in a one game elimination, anything can happen if played 100 more times wouldn’t happen again.
As is the case with most one seeds both teams are well prepared for the moment. For Gonzaga to win this would be the first National Championship in School history, not only for basketball but for any sport. Roy Williams, who has two titles of his own is looking for redemption. Redemption from last years loss and to propel himself into the Coaching greats. There are few coaches who have won two titles, there are even fewer who have won three.
It is fitting that in a time in College basketball defined by a “one and done” culture, two veteran teams will play in the final. North Carolina, a team that terrorizes opponents in the paint on offense and Gonzaga the best Defense in the Country. The battle for space down low will be where the game is undoubtedly won. If Gonzaga’s stockade of big men can handle Carolina’s attack, their offense could stagnate. With UNC guard, Joel Berry’s, injury concerns and offense trouble, the Tar heels may find themselves stuck in the mud. This game will truly be the fight between the proverbial unstoppable force and the immovable object.