Final exams for college basketball will be running in Houston on Monday night as the March Madness tournament will wrap up. The North Carolina Tar Heels, as many expected, will be in the final, and they will host against the Villanova Wildcats. While the latter isn’t the team that most would have had in the final, they are still a former No. 1 on the season, and they are the best team from their half of the draw.
The surprise of the tournament remains the first-round upset of Michigan State at the hands of Middle Tennessee. The tournament favorite or second favorite, depending on who you asked, going out in the first round to an unheard of program is tough to top.
However, who would have predicted that the Wildcats would have routed the Oklahoma Sooners in the semifinals the way that they did? Jay Wright‘s team demolished Lon Kruger‘s on Saturday by 44 points to set a record for largest margin of victory within a Final Four semifinal. That looks to be a record that will stand the test of time, and it sends Wright to his first national championship game.
Heading into the Final Four, there was talk that Buddy Hield of Oklahoma had improved his draft value for the NBA with his performance in this season’s NCAA basketball tournament. But Saturday’s semifinal certainly didn’t help him from that point of view as he scored just 9 points on 4 for 12 shooting. He wasn’t the only player on Oklahoma that was more than just a little off. Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard went a combined 6 for 24 from the floor. Whatever Jay Wright wrote up definitely appeared to work, and he’ll need more of that if his seemingly-inferior team is to solve the Tar Heels.
Roy Williams, the head coach of North Carolina, has been to the championship on multiple occasions and he has titles from 2005 and 2009. He clearly has the experience edge but, regardless of the outcome of Monday’s national championship, Wright has firmly bucked the monkey off of his back. Heading into the 2016 tournament his Wildcats were noted underachievers in the national championship event. Entering Monday’s final as a mild underdog, I don’t think there will be any sharp criticisms of him even if his side should lose to North Carolina. However, if he can secure a win, it would begin to cement a legacy as one of college basketball’s best coaches.
The championship game will start at 9:19 pm ET on Monday with TBS providing the television coverage. There’s no real home-court advangtage in the Houston-based game as ‘nova is out of Philadelphia and North Carolina are eastern as well. But the Tar Heels could be in for a bigger mouthful than what many would have expected. These Wildcats didn’t look remotely nervous in the semifinals as Wright had his team poised and ready for the biggest game of their careers.