At a glance: How North Carolina matches up with Kansas
North Carolina will face Kansas on Monday night in an unlikely National Championship matchup that could be one for the ages.
The Tar Heels upset rival Duke on Saturday night, so emotions will be riding high going into the title game. Caleb Love was the hero with 28 points, including 22 in the second half.
However, UNC is running into a very tough opponent in Kansas. The Jayhawks are a No. 1 seed and have played like it so far in the NCAA Tournament. They beat a tough Villanova team by 16 points in the other semifinal on Saturday.
Here’s a quick look at how UNC matches up with Kansas.
Point guard: R.J. Davis vs. Remy Martin and Dajuan Harris
Kansas rotates at point guard a bit more than Carolina does. The Jayhawks are comfortable with both Martin and Davis at that spot and both players have different styles. Martin — similarly to Davis — has the potential to score in bunches, but can be a bit reckless with the ball.
Martin’s style of play caused him to lose playing time throughout the season. However, he’s been more effective in March. He scored 16.8 points on 54.5% shooting in KU’s first four NCAA Tournament games.
Still, Davis gets the edge here for his consistency and leadership in North Carolina’s backcourt.
Shooting guard: Caleb Love vs. Ochai Agbaji
Would anyone bet against Love after the night he had vs. Duke?
Love’s 28 points essentially ended Mike Krzyzewski’s career on Saturday night in the Superdome. He also scored 30 points in North Carolina’s pivotal Sweet 16 win vs. UCLA last weekend.
On the other hand, would anyone bet against Agbaji after the night he had vs. Villanova?
Agbaji made each of his first 6 3-pointers against the Wildcats and was excellent defensively. He’s the top NBA prospect remaining in the Tournament and could push his way into the Lottery with a big performance vs. UNC.
This matchup is a tossup and very well could decide the outcome.
Small forward: Leaky Black vs. Christian Braun
Black certainly made a big impact in UNC’s win over Duke. He continues to be North Carolina’s best perimeter defender and he also contributed 6 offensive rebounds vs. the Blue Devils.
Braun has been the x-factor for Kansas all season long. He’s a streaky shooter, but he’s been hitting them in March. He hit a pair of dagger 3-pointers to put away Villanova earlier in the day on Saturday. He’s also an excellent perimeter defender and could have a major impact on this game.
Advantage to Braun because of his two-way ability.
Power forward: Brady Manek vs. Jalen Wilson
Manek was great again on Saturday night, particularly in the second half. He finished with 14 points and nailed a trio of 3-pointers after the break. He also had 3 blocks in the second half and did a good-enough job on future NBA lottery pick Paolo Banchero.
Wilson is one of the most underrated players in the country. He was arguably Kansas’ best player for certain stretches this season — even better than Agbaji. He’s a better athlete than Manek, but he’s not as much of a threat on the perimeter. He took an average of 3 3-pointers per game this season, but made just 26 percent of them. It’s worth noting that Mitch Lightfoot will also be a factor in the frontcourt.
This is another push. If North Carolina can leverage Manek’s perimeter game without giving up any second-chance points to Wilson on the other end, it should be in good shape.
Center: Armando Bacot vs. David McCormack
Will Armando Bacot be healthy for this game? It’s hard to know, given he appeared to be significantly hobbled after stepping on Black’s foot in the final 5 minutes of the Duke game.
If he his healthy, he’s going to be a major problem for Kansas. He collected a staggering 21 rebounds vs. the Blue Devils’ vaunted front court of Mark Williams, Theo John and Paolo Banchero.
On the other side is McCormack, who also has the potential to take over games on the inside. He had 25 points and 9 rebounds in KU’s win over Villanova on Saturday night.
Slight edge to McCormack, but only due to Bacot’s looming ankle injury. This another matchup that could end up deciding the outcome of the National Championship.
Tipoff is at 9:20 p.m. ET on Monday night.