Monday, April 3, 2017

2017 NCAA Championship Game: North Carolina (Who Else?!) vs. Gonzaga

North Carolina will play Gonzaga in tonight's 2017 NCAA Men's Championship game.  North Carolina is appearing in its twentieth NCAA Final Four -- the most Final Four appearances of any NCAA Division I Men's basketball program -- and will be playing in its second straight NCAA title game (the Tar Heels lost the 2016 NCAA Championship game on a buzzer-beating three point shot by Villanova's Kris Jenkins).

Gonzaga, by contrast, will be playing in its first-ever NCAA Championship game, after having just made its first Final Four appearance in school history during Saturday's semifinal win over South Carolina.

So what's the official Drive and Dish prediction for tonight's Championship game?

Dunno.  Hate to say it, but haven't seen enough of either team this year to have an informed opinion. This has been something of a "gap year" for Drive and Dish.  It's the first year in decades in which none of the writers, editors or reporters associated with Drive and Dish have payed attention to college basketball during the regular season.  Our interns didn't even watch college basketball this year (they didn't even watch their own colleges' teams)!  For the 2016-'17 season, we've been more or less like the average sports fan in America, insofar as our viewership of college basketball only began in March.  Accordingly, our Official Drive and Dish NCAA Tournament Bracket was the worst one we've ever posted.

In other words, you shouldn't listen to anything we say, and you're wasting your time if you read another word we write.

Having said that, we think that Gonzaga has its most talented team in school history, and as such, probably has an outside chance tonight against Head Coach Roy Williams' Tar Heels.  But North Carolina is stacked from top to bottom with big, athletic and talented players . . . as they usually are. 

Perhaps most importantly, the Heels are a veteran, experienced team.  Having played for the NCAA title last year, they should know exactly how to handle themselves on the big stage that tonight's game will present.  

North Carolina will probably come out and try to run Gonzaga off the court early in the game.  

For Gonzaga, the first key to the game will be playing with poise and not letting North Carolina set the tone early on.  A bigger key, though, for Gonzaga will be the play of 7'1" 300-plus lb big man Przemek Karnowski. Karnowski will have to stay out of foul trouble in order for the Zags to have a chance against the talented and experienced Tar Heels.  Gonzaga has other good big men who should be able to keep pace with Carolina's bigs, but they're young and inexperienced.  The massive Karnowski is Gonzaga's "X-factor."  If he's able to play extended minutes, Gonzaga may be able to hang around in this game.  But if the referees give North Carolina a little bit of "home cookin'" (as they've done in NCAA Tournament title games in the past), and blow the whistles early and often against Karnowski and his teammates, it will be a long night for the Zags.