Kansas Jayhawks vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
Line: Kansas -4
Where: Caesars Superdome
When: Monday, 4/4 at 9:20 p.m. ET
A pair of college basketball blue bloods will do battle on Monday night in the NCAA Tournament title game.
Kansas is tied with Duke for the most second-place finishes in tournament history—the top-seeded Jayhawks will try to avoid moving past the Blue Devils on Monday. Meanwhile, No. 8 seed North Carolina can pull within one title (7) of Kentucky (8) for second place on the list of total national championships.
The Tar Heels advanced to the title game by spoiling Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s going away party on Saturday night. They pulled off their third upset of the tournament, as they have knocked off Baylor (+5.5), UCLA (+2.5) and now the Blue Devils (+4.5).
“I felt like over the last two or three years, North Carolina wasn’t relevant,” first-year head coach Hubert Davis said. “North Carolina should never be irrelevant. It should be front and center with the spotlight on them.”
North Carolina will need one more upset if it wants to complete a fairytale run under Davis. The Tar Heels opened as 4-point underdogs, which is where the line remains as of Sunday afternoon. Monday night’s total opened at 153 and has been bet down into the 151-152 range.
Kansas booked its spot in the title game with a comprehensive win over second-seeded Villanova on Saturday night. The Jayhawks have been favored in all five of their games in the Big Dance, covering the spread in three of those wins.
“I thought we played great,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “I thought we were disciplined defensively. I thought we stayed down on shot fakes, basically, for 40 minutes. And with the exception of defending the arc, I thought we just played terrific.”
Senior guard Ochai Agbaji drilled a 3-pointer 15 seconds into the contest, setting the tone for a game that Kansas led wire-to-wire. Agbaji entered Saturday’s slate priced at +500 to win the Most Outstanding Player award, giving him the second-shortest odds behind Duke’s Paolo Banchero (+250).
The MOP odds had not been updated at the time of writing, but it’s safe to say that Agbaji is the favorite. He has scored in double figures in four of his five games in the tournament, including a 21-point performance against Villanova. Agbaji leads an offense that ranks sixth in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings.
Kansas has knocked down 36.1 percent of its 3-pointers this season—it went 13 of 24 from downtown on Saturday. Senior forward David McCormack did not account for any of those triples, but he led the way with 25 points and nine rebounds on 10 of 12 shooting from the floor.
The Jayhawks will need a big game from McCormack, as he is going up against one of the tallest teams in the country. North Carolina’s size played a pivotal role in its win over Duke, as the Tar Heels outrebounded the Blue Devils by a tally of 50-41.
Junior forward Armando Bacot, who is North Carolina’s leading scorer, scored 11 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, despite dealing with a late ankle twist and foul trouble. Sophomore guard Caleb Love poured in a team-high 28 points on 11 of 20 shooting, including the 3-point dagger in the final minute.
The Tar Heels are No. 18 in adjusted offensive efficiency and will have more height than Kansas, but they also have less experience. They are facing a Kansas defense that is No. 17 in adjusted efficiency.
North Carolina has covered the spread in all five of its NCAA Tournament games this year and has now won outright in its last five games as an underdog. Kansas is 10-1 straight up in its last 11 games against an ACC foe and is 7-2 ATS in its last nine games. The Tar Heels have gone ‘over’ the total in 12 of their last 18 contests.
The pick: Kansas -4
The market has made too large of an adjustment on North Carolina as the tournament has progressed. I have not been overly impressed with this run, as Baylor was the weakest No. 1 seed, Saint Peter’s was a gift of a draw in the Elite Eight and Duke had all of the pressure in Saturday night’s game. Kansas is coming off two of its best performances of the season, dominating Miami in the second half last weekend and then controlling Villanova from start to finish. The Jayhawks have the inside presence to thwart North Carolina in the paint—they also have probably the best guard play in the country. Agbaji was built for this run, and I think he leads his team to a title on Monday night, securing MOP honors along the way. It’s been a fantastic NCAA Tournament—BOL with your wagers and enjoy the action!