Villanova-North Carolina: National Championship Preview

One game will decide the National Champion in Division I college basketball this season. 

For Roy Williams and North Carolina, this is nothing new. The Tar Heels have won five National Championships in school history and been to the title game nine times. They have five Final Four runs since 2000, and two championships under Williams, their last coming in 2009.

For the Villanova Wildcats and Jay Wright, this is the chance to achieve immortality and join the 1985 team. Rollie Massimino and the 1985 Wildcats are basketball royalty, in part to their enormous underdog status, but also in school history for being the only team to claim a National Championship.

The Wildcats make just their third-ever National Championship game appearance, joining the 1985 and 1971 teams. Jay Wright knows Villanova's history as well as anybody, which would make victory in Houston on Monday all the sweeter.

Tip off between these two schools with long-standing histories begins at 9:19 p.m.

Projected Starting Lineups

Villanova (34-5) North Carolina (33-6)
3 Josh Hart 15.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG 11 Brice Johnson 17 PPG, 10.5 RPG
2 Kris Jenkins 13.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG 2 Joel Berry II 12.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG
15 Ryan Arcidiacono 12.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG 5 Marcus Paige 12.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG
23 Daniel Ochefu 10.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG 44 Justin Jackson 12.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG
1 Jalen Brunson 9.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG 3 Kennedy Meeks 9.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG

In Villanova's last game, it was Josh Hart. Before that, it was Kris Jenkins. Before that, Ryan Arcidiacono. Every night, another player takes center stage and almost runs the show with a strong supporting cast behind him. 

As long as Villanova can find their rhythm with one guy, the rest tend to feed off of it. North Carolina is not a team where you want to get into a rebound and possession battle. If this comes down to points and good shooting, Villanova has proven they can do that much. And if they can also continue to play the stifling defense that got them here, there's a good chance they will find themselves very much in this game down the stretch.

For North Carolina, Brice Johnson is the main guy, but there are so many around him that can put up points. Like Villanova, this is a strong offensive team with plenty of talent. They average 83 points per game to Villanova's 78. They allowed just under 70 points per game, while Nova is slightly better at 63 points allowed per game.

But this team has great size and could make rebounding a nightmare for Villanova. In past games, Villanova has shown great hustle and heart to get loose balls, create turnovers and get positioning for rebounds, or better yet, fight for them. But they have not seen a team quite like North Carolina in that regard yet, which will certainly make this a challenge.

Villanova holds a slight edge in the outside game, shooting 36 percent from beyond the three-point line to UNC's 31 percent, but these are two nearly identical teams in shooting percentage — UNC is at 48.4 percent, Nova is at 48.1 percent.

With two teams so well-rounded yet so different in style and so consistent with their play all season, this could be a classic. 

Nova and UNC have a little bit of history that makes this game just as exciting. In 2009, the Wildcats last trip to the Final Four, their National Championship hopes were dashed by the Tar Heels, who went on to win the Tournament. In 1985, when Villanova made their unlikely run as a No. 8 seed, they defeated UNC in the Elite Eight. The Tar Heels were a No. 2 seed.

Whatever happens, it is sure to be an entertaining night and an exciting one just because Villanova is there. But it would be something special if they finished the job and came away with a title, something that anyone remotely close to Philadelphia should treasure.

Kevin Durso is editorial assistant for Sports Talk Philly. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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