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NCAA Basketball National Championship Prediction 2022


Caleb Love, UNC

The 2022 NCAA Basketball Tournament concludes with a battle of blue bloods, both with unique journeys to the final game. Kansas took some lumps during the regular season but is playing their best basketball of the season, fresh off a tremendous showing against Villanova in the Final Four. They're looking to win Bill Self his second National Title in Lawrence, and first since 2008. On the other side, North Carolina had a rollercoaster of a season but has also put it together at the right time. First-year head coach Hubert Davis and the Tar Heels spoiled Coach K's retirement and are looking to bring another Title to Chapel Hill. 

The Jayhawks have excellent roster balance, with playmakers and scorers at nearly every spot. Ochai Agbaji is the headliner as the Big 12 Player of the Year and has followed it up with a great March. Self is superb at getting Agbaji the ball in creative sets, but he's also grown as a shot creator himself. Alongside Agbaji in the backcourt is Remy Martin and Christian Braun. Martin has been playing the best basketball of his career, but needs to regain his rhythm after scoring just three points against Villanova. The Jayhawks don't need him to put up big numbers to win, but he can't turn the ball over the way he has at times in the past. Braun has found himself as a nice complementary scorer and his growth as a defender isn't talked about enough. He's going to play a particularly large role containing UNC's explosive guards. Up front, Kansas features Jalen Wilson and David McCormack, giving them enough size to contend with Armando Bacot. McCormack is a throwback big man who had 25 points against Villanova, but he has to stay out of foul trouble. Both Mark Williams and Theo John got in foul trouble quick against Bacot and the Tar Heels in the semifinal, so keeping McCormack on the floor will be of utmost importance for Self and the Jayhawks. It's an offense with plenty of weapons, but how they fare on the defensive end may determine whether they're able to come away as National Champs. Duke put up plenty of points, but they couldn't hang with UNC the other way; whether KU fares better defensively remains to be seen.

After a frustrating season, UNC is playing with a lot of confidence and poise. They've responded on the sport's largest stage for a number of reasons. For one, Davis seems to be coming into his own as a head coach after serving as a longtime assistant. Even more important has been the growth of the guards, Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, and Leaky Black. The trio had was inconsistent all season but have been the team's top playmakers in the Big Dance. Love in particular has been the real leader for the team and has proven he can hit the big shots. After going for 30 against UCLA in the Sweet 16, he went for 28 against Duke and sunk the program's primary foe. In addition to the guards, Bacot and former Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek have been excellent. Bacot is a double-double machine who outclassed both of Duke's bigs and has an NBA future. He's somewhat limited of what he can do offensively, but I don't have any doubt that he can match up well against McCormack. Manek is a tough cover who tortured Kansas for years while playing in the Big 12. Despite having the size to bang down low, Manek is a great shooter who moves very well without the ball. You would think Kansas will use Jalen Wilson to cover him most of the time, but it's going to be a tough 40 minutes. He's become one of the sport's biggest names with his play during March and is looking to end his impressive collegiate career with a National Title. What's even more amazing about this Tar Heel team is that they're playing so well without one of their top players, former Marquette transfer Dawson Garcia. Garcia has been away from the program for months now and with all due respect to him, that's allowed the other guards to really shine through. It's allowed guys like Puff Johnson to see minutes, a guy who could be a breakout candidate next winter.

I've said for years that Kansas is due another National Title, and they were my runner-up pick prior to the Tournament. Self is too good of a coach and the program has been too good for too long not to add another trophy to their collection. They run into an absolute buzz saw in UNC, but if they can play the way they did against Villanova, they still have a chance to win. With all that being said, this is starting to feel like North Carolina's year. They've handled every team they've seen this March Madness and have the type of roster that can overwhelm opponents. Kansas is a great basketball team but with the way the Heels are playing, I'm thinking they're the smarter selection.

North Carolina by five

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