We respect how Mark Few has developed the basketball program at the Gonzaga University over the past two decades. He has built Gonzaga into a national powerhouse that should set the foundation for many years to come.
This year was a tremendous proving ground for Mark Few. The Bulldogs were finally a Number 1 seed in the tournament. They deserved this seeding after a tremendous year in which they dominated all but one team on the schedule. They have impressive wins at Florida, at Arizona and verses Iowa State. All three of those teams won at least one game in March Madness.
That been said, this is where we see a flaw in Cinderella’s path to the National Championship. Gonzaga has had one of the least challenging path to the final game of any team in history. They dominated an over-matched South Dakota State team that was only down by 4 at half. Next game, they almost melted down verses an 8th seed. Northwestern took them to the brink and if not for a missed goaltending and subsequent technical foul, the game might have had a different outcome. Ask any Northwestern alum, Gonzaga was lucky to escape into the Sweet 16.
In the Sweet 16, Gonzaga played well against a tough West Virginia Mountaineer squad. This was their most competitive game of the tournament. Few excelled in this situation and won a game that he might have lost in the past. The Zags then caught their second major break (after the missed call against Northwestern). 11th seeded Xavier upset an Arizona Wildcats team that was primed to revenge their lost to the Zags in Tucson. Xavier played their best game of the year to beat Arizona. The Musketeers left everything on the court in one of the biggest upsets in March. Gonzaga had a match-up with a spent Xavier team that was emotional and physically drained. The end result was a dominating win by the Bulldogs to reach the Final Four.
In the Final Four, Gonzaga faced the 7th seed out of the East (South Carolina). South Carolina was a 2nd tier SEC team that was making a magical run through the tournament. The Gamecocks were living off borrowed time, but almost won the game after overcoming a 14-point deficit in the 2nd half. It was after this game that Gonzaga lost the National Championship.
As you can see with our picture, the coaches and their teams celebrated wins on Saturday night in completely different fashion. The Tar Heels and Williams went back to the drawing board. Gonzaga and Few celebrated as if they won the title.
Whether it’s putting the toothpaste back in the tube or the genie back in the bottle, it will be very difficult for Gonzaga to capture this emotion and focus so soon after a celebratory win.
The advantage here for North Carolina is about focus and coaching. Carolina and Gonzaga have talented enough players to win every game. The injury to Berry is definitely a concern. The experience of playing road games in the ACC has tested the Tar Heels’ mettle more so than Gonzaga had been tested in the West Coast Conference. The difference in tonight’s game will come down to coaching and big game experience.
Williams is an experienced and consistence leader that has won two National Championships. His last occurred in similar fashion when the Tar Heels were booted out of the ACC Tournament in 2009. The path is very similar as that championship year. By the way, Carolina faced the following seeds on their way to this game; 16,8,4,2 and 3. Their road was much tougher as reflected in their last two games against Oregon and Kentucky.
We expect the Tar Heels to throw Theo Pinson at Williams-Goss. NWG has never faced such a match-up this year. Pinson is 6’6” and will smother Williams-Goss in a way that will disrupt the timing of his game. This is the main question of tonight’s game; how does Roy Williams defend against the main cog of the well-oiled Bulldog team, Nigel Williams-Goss? NWG has shown the ability to strike at the most opportune time. He did it again on Saturday night right when Gonzaga was on the brink of defeat to the 7th seeded Gamecocks. His talent and timing is uncanny.
Tonight, will be a showcase of the strength of the North Carolina program. The Tar Heels will have made a remarkable turnaround from the heartbreaking loss against Villanova. Rare is the team that can climb the mountain after being so close to its peak only to fall in the final second. They call it redemption. We do too.
The books have provided a generous point spread with the North Carolina Tar Heels -1 (or -120 on the moneyline). Since the betting public has brought down the line, you will be on the side of the sports books if you bet on North Carolina. We always recommend the moneyline on short lines like on tonight’s game. Vegas Sports® is positioned with bets in place the will reward us with a $3,600 win while only risking $100 (see our previous article).
Look again at the meme we created. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I this case, we think it can be worth thirty-six hundred. Good luck and Go Heels!