Say what you want about the strength of schedule for the West Coast Conference’s Gonzaga Bulldogs (37–1) this season; it did not matter for the Big East’s Villanova Wildcats a year ago when they won their second national championship.
Most bettors should remember it was North Carolina that lost to Villanova 77–74 as a nearly identical favorite in last year’s national championship game. The Tar Heels were also a No. 1 seed then and will be trying again for their sixth title as a much more experienced bunch than the Bulldogs.
The question is, can they make the big shots when needed this time around and continue to use rebounding to their advantage here?
Last year’s North Carolina squad was arguably better led by Brice Johnson, but many argue that the best team does not always win the NCAA tournament as well. One thing is for sure though, this matchup could not be much more even from a handicapping perspective considering it is just the ninth time ever that two No. 1 seeds are meeting for the title.
In addition, Gonzaga is attempting to become the first school to win the national championship in its first Final Four appearance since the UConn Huskies accomplished the feat in 1999. The Huskies were nearly double-digit underdogs.
The Bulldogs are underdogs for the first time since they beat the BYU Cougars 71–68 as three-point dogs on Feb. 27, 2016. They are 9–5 against the spread in their last 14 games as underdogs, according to the OddsShark College Basketball Database, winning six of those games straight up.
On the other hand, the Tar Heels are 7–2 SU and ATS in their previous nine games as favorites of less than two points on the college basketball point spreads, so something has to give.
It may well come down to individual matchups, with Gonzaga seemingly holding a huge edge at point guard with Nigel Williams-Goss. North Carolina counterpart Joel Berry II has been hampered by a pair of sprained ankles recently, and his shooting has consequently suffered. Berry has made only 6 of 26 shots from the field in the past two games combined compared to 16 of 35 for Williams-Goss.
Look for Williams-Goss to lead the Bulldogs to their first-ever NCAA title as the Most Outstanding Player.