North Carolina and Villanova meet on Monday night in Houston to decide college basketball’s champion for the 2015-2016 season. Although this is the first time the two will square off in the championship game, there’s some Final Four history between them.
The Tar Heels’ most recent title came in 2009 when they beat the Michigan State Spartans 89-72 in Detroit. To reach the title game, North Carolina first had to get by the Wildcats 83-69.
Monday’s game will mark the sixth time overall the two schools have met in the NCAA Tournament. North Carolina is 5-1 in those games. In 1982 and 2005, the Tar Heels also knocked out Villanova on the way to a national title.
Villanova’s lone tournament victory over North Carolina came in 1985. It was that season when the Wildcats pulled the shocking upset of heavily favored Georgetown to win the title in Lexington, Kentucky.
Past history, of course, does not matter. This is about two good teams that have dominated their opponents in NCAA play.
The Tar Heels have won all five of their tournament games by double-digit margins. Villanova’s only close game came in the regional finals where they dispatched top-seeded Kansas, 64-59.
They are two very efficient offensive teams led by two outstanding point guards. North Carolina averages 88 points per game in the toughest conference (ACC) in the country. Villanova average 78 points per game, but they continue to improve.
“I do think that this team has taken advantage of the opportunity to play games and has gotten better,” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said at a Sunday news conference. “Even going into the Oklahoma game (won by Villanova 93-51), I thought we had our best week of practice in terms of the commitment to detail.”
Joel Berry II, a native of Apopka, Florida, scores 12.6 points per game, but also spreads the ball around to his teammates. The MVP of the 2016 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament has a ratio of 2.5 assists per turnover. In the NCAA Tournament, he has 26 assists to only five turnovers.
Ryan Arcidiacono is the battery for the Wildcat offense. His numbers are almost identical to Beery. He averages 12.4 points and has a 2.83 assist-to-turnover ratio. He is being called upon to score more in the NCAA Tournament, upping his average to 15.8 points per game.
North Carolina has an advantage of size on the front lines, but the Tar Heels’ Achilles’ heel, if they have one, is 3-point shooting, where they average 31 percent. Against a good Indiana team in the regional semi-finals they uncharacteristically hit 10 of their first 12 to get out to a big lead.
If they do that again, they will win the championship. Villanova will depend on Josh Hart to hound either Beery or Marcus Paige into a poor shooting night. Hart was assigned to Oklahoma star Buddy Hield, holding the unanimous All-American to nine points.
If North Carolina wins, it will be their sixth national title, putting them in third place behind UCLA and Kentucky. The Wildcats are going for their second.