North Carolina, which has been in line for a number one seed the majority of the season, recognized as a championship caliber team for much some time now. They have capitalized on their number one seed, dismantling sixteen seed Texas Southern, 103 to 64. While Texas Southern was not much of a challenge, Arkansas was a different story. North Carolina looked as if they could pull away for another blowout, but after blowing a 17 point lead, it took an extraordinary comeback to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. In that round, Butler never could dwindle down UNC’s lead to make it a closer game. UNC ended up winning 92 to 80. In the Elite Eight, North Carolina and Kentucky, two blue bloods clashed to create a instant classic. The two teams battled in the second half, with Malik Monk hitting a difficult game-tying three pointer to tie the game at 73 with ten seconds left. Then, Luke Maye became a hero. Theo Pinson’s drive and dish to Maye spotting up inside the three point arc gave UNC the 75 to 73. North Carolina now finds themselves in the Final Four against Oregon.
North Carolina’s offense is paced by ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson, Joel Berry, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks. As seen in past years, UNC attempts to dominate the boards, with no lack of size in their front court. The X Factor for UNC will be Joel Berry, who has had ankle injuries as of late, has said he will be playing in one of his last collegiate games. Berry is the catalyst for this offense, being both a passer and a scorer. Other members of this UNC squad that will play a big role will be Theo Pinson, a grinder on both ends of the floor, and the recent blossoming of Luke Maye.
Oregon will be a difficult matchup for UNC, with Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey playing their best basketball of the year. Oregon also has similar size to UNC, with Jordan Bell being a presence inside. If UNC wants to advance to the National Championship for the second straight year, they will need Berry and Jackson to play well on both ends of the floor. However, I think Oregon’s absence of Chris Boucher to an injury will finally come back to hurt them. Not having the ability to have the same amount of depth as UNC inside will give UNC a victory.