Men's Basketball 2017 NCAA Tournament National Championship Game Breakdown

NCAA Tournament National Championship Game Breakdown
Mark Few and the Gonzaga Bulldogs are one win away from the school’s first ever national championship. It took a marvelous offensive effort against one of the best defensive teams in the nation to get to this point. Gonzaga shot 48.3 percent from the floor against South Carolina, including a 58 percent mark in the first half to build a big lead. The Zags constantly and continually fed the post, either for kick-outs or shots in the paint. It gave the team good looks throughout the game, even against the Gamecocks’ swarming and active defense. A huge second-half run got Carolina back in the game after a lethargic first half from Sindarius Thornwell. He didn’t score his first point until just 6:25 remained before halftime. The big 16-0 run that got USC back in the game gave way to another Gonzaga run, though, as the Bulldogs closed things out for the victory. Gonzaga got crushed in the turnover battle and from the charity stripe but had enough inside to come away with buckets when the team needed it. That and Zach Collins’ presence on the defensive end sealed South Carolina’s fate.
Facing the Bulldogs in the title game will be a team familiar with such festivities. The North Carolina Tar Heels escaped their national semifinal against Oregon to advance. This match was sloppy and disjointed from the start. The Ducks turned the ball over early and often, yet found no early deficit as UNC couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Whether because of odd sight lines, Oregon mixing up its defense, or Final Four jitters, North Carolina was a mess from the field. In fact, by the final whistle, neither team made even 38 percent of its field goals. Oregon hung around thanks to an honorable performance on the glass against a much larger front line and a miraculous exhibition of foul shooting. The Ducks went 25-of-28 from the stripe. If not for the outputs of Kennedy Meeks and Theo Pinson, Oregon may have snuck into the title game instead. Meeks was great all game, as was Pinson, but the pair saved the game at the end by keeping alive two consecutive offensive rebounds as North Carolina tried and failed to salt the game away from the free-throw line. Poor Jordan Bell goes from hero last round to goat at the end of this one for failing to secure any of the missed foul shots in the final seconds.
In the final Monday night, UNC brings experience to its second consecutive national championship game. Of course, since the Tar Heels were the team that seemed out of sorts to begin their semifinal, it hardly feels like Gonzaga will let the event overwhelm it. Instead, this one is going to come down to execution on the court. And these two teams match up exceedingly well. For perhaps the first time all tournament, both the Heels and Bulldogs face an opponent with comparable bodies and size on the frontline. Both teams also like to dig deep down their benches for contributions, though Gonzaga usually settles on a top seven. UNC will lose part of its edge here if Joel Berry doesn’t heal up. He appeared hobbled in the semifinal, especially on the defensive end. North Carolina will have to look elsewhere if Berry can’t stick with Nigel Williams-Goss. In a game where each team will find it hard to go to their strengths, unlikely heroes will have to emerge. Neither frontline is going to be able to dominate the paint like it has been. The Bulldogs’ recent hot shooting from the outside to balance their inside dominance probably gives them the slightest of edges heading to tip-off.