2016 NCAA Basketball Championship Prediction
|Josh Hart & Kris Jenkins|
From top to bottom, there may not be a basketball team in the nation that can match up with North Carolina. It isn't just their stars, but the fact they have a whole double unit that can come in and contribute as well. Off the bench, guys like Isaiah Hicks, gritty Joel James and play-making Theo Pinson play big roles and have had a great couple of games. The starting lineup includes seniors Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, along with swingman Justin Jackson and massive Kennedy Meeks. Paige has been extremely important to the Tar Heels throughout his time in Chapel Hill, but particularly in their last five games. The senior point guard was struggling mightily from deep entering March but has been absolutely flaming hot since then. Villanova's guards are great defenders, but expect Paige to still be looking for his shot. Down low, Johnson has continued a terrific regular season with a dominant postseason. Johnson has been an absolute beast all year long on the boards, particularly offensive. He has proven to also have a capable mid-range shot and appears to be on a mission to win a Championship as his grand finale with UNC. Jackson provides tremendous athleticism and shooting on the wings, while Meeks has moments where he can dominate down low. The three-headed monster of Meeks, Johnson and Hicks (not to mention James) will be an absolute load for a relatively undersized Villanova team to handle. Don't be surprised if North Carolina pounds it in the paint early and often, particularly if the game comes down to the wire.
The Wildcats have gone on their run behind their talented group of veterans, especially their top two seniors, Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono. Arcidiacono is so hot he has been shooting over 60% from the field this tournament, and is feeling it from deep. The four-year captain is playing in a manner similar to Johnson; dead set on ending his collegiate career with a Championship, and it is clear, with the hustle and heart he plays with. Ochefu has transformed into a dominant low post presence and he will play a huge role against Johnson and Meeks. The Wildcats also possess great versatility throughout their lineup and it will be interesting to see how the Tar Heels' inconsistent defense performs. Kris Jenkins has turned it on this tournament and remains a great shooter and scorer. His strength and power versus Justin Jackson's speed and versatility could be an intriguing battle on the wing. Josh Hart is one of the nation's most underrated players, a guy who always finds ways to score. He has played terrific this tournament and could be a real headache against the Tar Heels' defense. Freshman Jalen Brunson has blessed Villanova with more balance and he works well with Arcidiacono in the backcourt. This whole Villanova team appears radioactive hot, as they hit 71 percent as a team this past Saturday against Oklahoma in a 44-point thumping of the Sooners. Though, it is hard to keep that hot shooting up throughout six games, and their defense, which has also been great, could struggle against the versatility and power of the UNC offense.
Both of these teams seem to be great matches against each other. They have both have veteran point guards, sturdy and versatile big men, and wings can shoot the ball. They bring depth, experience and smarts to the table, along with plenty of motivation for their four-year seniors. North Carolina may the nation's best team, but it will be interesting to see if their backcourt can handle Arcidiacono, Brunson and Hart all on the court together. Plus, this Villanova team is just hotter and playing better at the right time. Oklahoma and Kansas were Final Four teams and Villanova had no problems, and while UNC is beating opponents, they haven't played the same competition (a six in the Elite Eight and a 10 seed in the Final Four) that 'Nova has. This game is sure to be exciting and down to the wire, but in the end Villanova should complete their redemption story.
Villanova by four