Kansas vs. North Carolina: Who has position-by-position edge in 2022 NCAA basketball championship game? Out of the (Carolina) blue, Tar Heels go for title vs Kansas North Carolina vs. Kansas odds: 2022 NCAA Tournament title game picks, March Madness predictions by top expert
Monday’s national championship game between No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 8 seed North Carolina is a battle between two of college basketball’s historical powers. The Jayhawks and Tar Heels own a combined nine national titles and are two card-holding members of the sport’s elite class commonly known as the blue bloods.
Former Kansas coach James Naismith is one of basketball’s founding fathers, and a legendary string of coaches have cycled through both programs since Naismith’s run with the Jayhawks ended over a century ago. The historical significance of two schools like this meeting in the national championship is obvious and provides a great backdrop for what will happen on the court inside the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans on Monday night.
But ultimately, the history and lore of past decades will be irrelevant when the ball is tipped. All the heroes of prior years won’t be able to help the Tar Heels or Jayhawks on Monday night. Instead, it will be players like Dajuan Harris and Leaky Black who are battling to etch their own names in college basketball lore.
So as tipoff approaches, let’s take a position-by-position look at the Kansas vs. North Carolina matchup and see who might have an edge in the 2022 national title game.
Dajuan Harris (Kansas) vs. RJ Davis (UNC)
Both Harris and Davis are on the small end, and neither stands out as the alpha-type like you often see from point guards on great teams. They have each been instrumental to the success of their teams, though. Davis put up 30 points in a second-round win over No. 1 seed Baylor and had 18 in Saturday’s Final Four win over Duke. Harris isn’t asked to carry a heavy offensive load for the Jayhawks, but his 3-for-5 mark from 3-point range against Villanova in the Final Four was a huge boost in helping KU keep the Wildcats at arm’s length. Ultimately, the offensive capabilities of Davis set him apart in this matchup. Edge: UNC
Ochai Agbaji (Kansas) vs. Caleb Love (North Carolina)
Love could just as easily be considered the “one” for UNC considering how often he has the basketball in his hands and the fact that he and Davis have nearly identical assist numbers. But he’s 4 inches taller than Davis and plays a featured offensive role that makes comparing him to Agbaji a natural exercise. Being compared to Agbaji is a tough task for anyone, though — even for a player like Love who just turned in a legendary performance against Duke. There is no question that Love’s evolution into a star has propelled UNC to this point. But Agbaji’s experience, consistency and 8-of-9 mark from 3-point range over the last two games give him the edge in a comparison of the game’s most important backcourt players. Edge: Kansas
Leaky Black (North Carolina) vs. Christian Braun (Kansas)
Black is like UNC’s version of Harris in that he doesn’t score a ton but has cemented a role because of his success with the intangibles. He is the Tar Heels’ best perimeter defender, which certainly counts for something, and you can always count on him for the hustle plays. But Braun showed with a couple of dagger 3-pointers in the final minutes against Villanova that he’s got the swagger and offensive game to be a key factor on a championship stage. So while Black is a solid role player, Braun is an elite role player with the offensive game to be a difference-maker. Braun could become a superstar next season after Agbaji leaves for the NBA, and we may get a preview on Monday. Edge: Kansas
Brady Manek (North Carolina) vs. Jalen Wilson (Kansas)
These players bring vastly different strengths to the table, which makes the matchup a wash. Manek has taken his assassin-like 3-point shooting skill as a stretch power forward to the next level during the NCAA Tournament. He makes heavily contested looks from the corner look like layups. So in terms of outside shooting, he’s got the edge on Wilson. But Wilson’s versatility and comfort running the floor make up for the perimeter shooting deficiency. Wilson is also enough of an outside threat to keep UNC’s defense from sagging, and he’s got the chops to beat opponents off the dribble. His overall versatility, especially on defense, stand out. Edge: Even
Armando Bacot (North Carolina) vs. David McCormack (Kansas)
David McCormack at his best is plenty capable of bruising with Bacot and negating UNC’s edge under the basket. Thankfully for Kansas, McCormack has been at his best in the last two games and is entering off a season-high 25-point outing against Villanova. But McCormick at his worst could get eaten alive by Bacot, who is far more consistent in his rebounding and scoring contributions than McCormack. Bacot has an absurd 43 rebounds over the last two games, and he will be a hassle for the Jayhawks to deal with. Edge: UNC
Remy Martin and Mitch Lightfoot (Kansas) vs. Puff Johnson and Dontrez Styles (UNC)
UNC’s starters are referred to as the “iron five” for a reason. The reason is because the Tar Heels don’t go deep into their bench. With 6-11 sophomore forward Dawson Garcia away from the team because of family medical concerns, the Tar Heels are particularly lean in the post behind Bacot. Kansas, by contrast, brings one of its best players off the bench in graduate transfer guard Remy Martin. The former Arizona State star played a limited role for KU during the Big 12 slate but is an elite shot-creator and offensive spark for the Jayhawks. With veteran big man Mitch Lightfoot also available to come in and give McCormack a breather under the basket, the Jayhawks have a nice depth advantage in this matchup. Kansas coach Bill Self can go up to 10 deep if he wants. Edge: Kansas
Speaking of Self, he’s got an edge in the coaching matchup due to experience. Now in his fourth Final Four and third national title game, he’s navigated these moments before, and that must be worth something. From a bigger picture standpoint, no one in college basketball has done a better coaching job than Davis in the second half of this season. But in a one-game, 40-minute spectrum, Self’s 29 years of head coaching experience are a trump card. Edge: Kansas
NEW ORLEANS — — It should come as no shock that North Carolina and Kansas are playing for the national title. Their names, complete with their intertwined histories, are cemented on the short-short list of college basketball’s greatest programs.
There’s a bit of a twist in 2022. While lots of folks could have envisioned an obvious path for the top-seeded, fully loaded Jayhawks to reach this point, this run by the Tar Heels feels as if it came out of the Carolina blue.
A March Madness dominated by an underdog, tiny 15th-seeded Saint Peters, and a legend, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, comes to a close Monday night. It features Kansas, of course. And the Tar Heels — the team that put the hammer down on the top two feel-good stories of March only to become The Story themselves in April.
It is a team with one player, Caleb Love, who entered the NBA draft a year ago, only to pull out after learning that his prospects weren’t that great. He showed them — going huge in two of Carolina’s last three wins, including the dagger 3-pointer against Duke that cemented an 81-77 win and shoved Coach K into retirement.
It is a team with a rookie coach, Hubert Davis, who oversaw a handful of lopsided losses that sent the Tar Heels tumbling from the Top 25 and, for a time, had them looking more like a bubble team than one contending for the program’s seventh championship.
It is a No. 8 seed. A win Monday in the Superdome would make North Carolina only the second 8 seed to take the tournament. The other: The 1985 Villanova team, which pulled one of the sport’s greatest upsets, shooting 79% in “The Perfect Game,” a 66-64 victory over big, bad Georgetown.
“All teams go through blips, and obviously, they’ve had a great year,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of the Tar Heels. “But they were a bubble team six weeks ago, which is incredible to me.”
The Jayhawks this season were never on the bubble. In almost every way, this is a title run that’s been building since 2020. Two seasons ago, Kansas was a top-five team in The Associated Press poll for all but one week. The Jayhawks were cruising toward the tournament, with a 28-3 record and on pace to receive the top overall seed.
But COVID-19 scrubbed March Madness. Instead of entering the tournament as the favorite to win the program’s fourth NCAA title, the Jayhawks spent the quarantined Summer of 2020 thinking about what might have been.
“I don’t think of it as ‘what-if,’” said senior forward David McCormack, who averages 10 points and seven rebounds. “I know what we would have done that year. We were just on a positive slope.”
Including McCormack, this year’s team has seven holdovers from that squad. That includes forward Mitch Lightfoot — a senior, if you can call him that. This is his sixth year at the school, a result of a redshirt season in 2019-20 and the COVID pause, which allowed players the opportunity to extend college an extra year.
Also, senior Ochai Agbaji. Like Love of Carolina, Agbaji took a look at the NBA draft last year before pulling back. His reward: A possible national title and the increasing likelihood of hearing his name called in the first round of the draft, not the second.
The top eight scorers on the Jayhawks have appeared in a mindboggling 973 college games, including the 81-65 beatdown they put on Villanova on Saturday in the semifinal.
“I think one of the keys to college basketball is going to be how to get old and how to stay old,” Self said. “And we’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to do that the last couple of years.”
North Carolina has a senior (Leaky Black), a junior (Armando Bacot), two sophomores (Love and R.J. Davis) and a graduate transfer from Oklahoma (Brady Manek). There’s experience there, too. Still, Kansas is a four-point favorite according to , and this marks the fourth of six games in the tournament in which the Tar Heels have been underdogs
These guys have won 10 of their last 11, including their 94-81 win at Duke on March 5 that ruined Krzyzewski’s going-away party at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The victory over the Blue Devils on Saturday was an even bigger win.
It was a fast-paced, emotion-saturated thriller. As much as any individual matchup in Monday’s game, the X-factor might be whether the Tar Heels can bounce back from such a huge victory in such a monumental game. (Though the inside matchup between McCormack and Carolina’s double-double machine, Bacot, should be interesting, and a critical part of the game, too.
“It was good winning, but we want to bring a championship home and hang up a banner,” Bacot said. “Beating Duke doesn’t give us a banner.”
Whoever hangs this banner will have prevailed in one of the biggest-name matchups in the history of the tournament.
Though separated by 1,100 miles, these schools have been attached at the hip for decades. Larry Brown played at North Carolina and later coached Kansas to a title. Roy Williams was head coach at Kansas for 15 years and Carolina for 18 more. The pathway between KU and UNC was paved by none other than Dean Smith, the coach with his name on the arena in Chapel Hill. Smith was a Kansas alum who started his coaching career there as an assistant.
Also, Hubert Davis, the current UNC coach, has a memory. He played for the Tar Heels when they lost to Kansas in a 79-73 heartbreaker in the 1991 national semifinals. Davis said he re-watches that game every year.
“It would make me cry,” he said. “And every time I watched it, I would think, ‘Maybe this time, it’ll turn out differently.'”
Kansas vs. UNC spread: Kansas -4
Kansas vs. UNC over-under: 152 points
Kansas vs. UNC money line: Kansas -190, UNC +160
KU: The Jayhawks are 7-5 against the spread in neutral-site games
UNC: The Tar Heels are 6-4 against the spread in neutral-site games
Why Kansas can cover
Kansas enters as the favorite with good reason, as the Jayhawks have been elite throughout the 2021-22 season. Bill Self’s team is tremendous on both ends of the floor, including a top-flight offense that ranks No. 6 in the country in adjusted efficiency. Kansas boasts an impressive 53.9 percent effective field goal shooting mark, including 36.1 percent from 3-point range and 53.8 percent inside the arc.
The Jayhawks are above-average at the free throw line, connecting on 72.0 percent of attempts, and Kansas does damage on the offensive glass. Kansas secures 33.2 percent of its own missed shots on the glass, a top-40 mark nationally, and the Jayhawks also win the possession battle by committing a turnover on only 17.4 percent of possessions. Kansas is also a quality passing team, averaging 15.4 assists per game and producing an assist on 54.0 percent of field goals.
Why North Carolina can cover
North Carolina is highly potent on offense, led by a trio of standout performers. Armando Bacot, who suffered an injury on Saturday but is likely to play, is averaging 16.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game in 2021-22, making 58 percent of his shots. Bacot secured 21 rebounds against Duke, the highest mark in a Final Four game since 2003, and he is a force near the rim. On the perimeter, Caleb Love is averaging 16.0 points per game for the season and 24.0 points per game in his last three contests. That includes a 28-point eruption against Duke, and he is North Carolina’s primary shot creator.
Veteran big man Brady Manek also provides a valuable skill set, scoring in double figures in 18 straight games and averaging 17.8 points and 6.0 rebounds over that period. North Carolina ranks in the top 20 of the country in offensive efficiency, and the Tar Heels are above-average in 3-point accuracy, offensive rebound rate, turnover rate, and assists per game.
How to make Kansas vs. North Carolina picks
For North Carolina vs. Kansas, Severance is leaning under on the point total, but he also says a critical X-factor makes one side of the spread a must-back. He’s only sharing what it is, and which side of the UNC vs. Kansas spread to back, at SportsLine.
Who wins North Carolina vs. Kansas? And which side of the spread is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Kansas vs. North Carolina spread you need to jump on, all from the expert who has crushed his college basketball picks, and find out.