North Carolina vs. Gonzaga, 4/3/17 - March Madness Prediction

Game Snapshot

#601 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels
vs.
#602 Gonzaga University Bulldogs

Monday, April 4 2017, at 9:20pm EDT

Written by

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

Gonzaga Bulldogs (37-1 SU, 23-10-2 ATS, 17-18-0 OU) vs North Carolina Tar Heels (32-7 SU, 19-16-3 ATS, 15-21-1 OU)

When: 9:20 PM ET, Monday, April 3, 2017

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

Lines: North Carolina -1.5

Total: 153.5

The NCAA Tournament has made it to the Finals as the Gonzaga Bulldogs will square off with the North Carolina Tar Heels at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Bulldogs got here off a nice 77-73 win over South Carolina, while the Tar Heels held off a late Oregon charge to win 77-76 in a thriller. This is Gonzaga’s first trip to the Finals, while the Heels will be going for their 6th NCAA Tournament Title.

Zags Have Made It To Their First Title Game

The Gonzaga Bulldogs never made it to the Final Four before and now here they are in the Title game getting ready to face the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Zags got to this game by taking out South Dakota State, Northwestern, West Virginia, Xavier and South Carolina. They have now won their last eight games in a row after suffering their own loss of the year which was at home against BYU. In the Final Four game they beat South Carolina by a score of 77-73 and it really was their defense that led them in the game, which has been what has led them for much of the year. The Zags allowed the Gamecocks to hit just 37.9% of their shots overall, including just 35% from long range. That defense will really be put to the test against a very strong Tar Heel offense in this one. The Zags have now allowed just 61.8 ppg on 34.6% shooting in the tourney so far. The offense has been strong for this team for most of the year, but they have averaged just 73.2 ppg on 44.3% shooting in the tourney so far. They did hit 48.3% of their shots overall, including 47.4% of their shots from long range against the Gamecocks tough defense. Leading their attack in the win was Nigel Williams-Goss, who had 23, while Zach Collins had 14, Przemek Karnowski had 13 and Jordan Mathews had 12.    

Gonzaga has averaged 75.0 ppg on 47.4% shooting and they have allowed 62.5 ppg on 36.5% shooting in neutral site games this year. The Bulldogs enter this contest ranked 15th in the nation in scoring, putting up 83.1 ppg, while also ranking 2nd in FG% (50.8%), 48th in 3-point shooting (38.1%) and 117th in free throw shooting (71.9%). At the defensive end of the floor they have been very strong as they come in ranked 7th in points allowed, giving up 61.2 ppg, while also ranking 2nd in defensive FG% (36.5%) and 5th in 3-point defense (29.4%).

Heels Are Looking For Their 6th Title

Last year, the North Carolina Tar Heels were beaten in the final by Villanova on a last-second shot. Now they have a chance to get what they missed last year and that is their 6th National Title. The Heels were the favorites by many coming into this tournament and now here they are in the finals. The Heels got here with wins over Texas Southern, Arkansas, Butler, Kentucky and Oregon. Against the Ducks, they won by a score of 77-76, but they did hold a double-digit lead in the 2nd half before the Ducks stormed back to make a game of it. Oregon did have a chance in the last minute as the Heels missed four free throws, but Oregon just couldn’t grab the rebound that would have given them a chance to win the game. The Heels had four offensive rebounds in the last few seconds and they had 16 in the game. This was the best rebounding team in the nation and the Zags have to be weary of that. The Heels have averaged 15.8 offensive rebounds per game, which is tops in the nation. Carolina has been a strong offensive team all year, but their defense has really improved allowing the way and they allowed the Ducks to hit just 37.9% of their shots overall, including just 26.9% of their shots from long range. That defense will need to step[ up here as well. The Heels have now allowed 71.6 ppg on 40.7% shooting in the tourney so far, while on offense they have averaged 83.8 ppg on 45.2% shooting in the tournament. Leading their attack in the win over Oregon was Kennedy Meeks, who had 25 points along with 14 rebounds, while Justin Jackson had 22 and Joel Berry had 11.   

North Carolina has averaged 86.6 ppg on 47.9% shooting overall and they have allowed 73.9 ppg on 41.1% shooting in neutral site games this year. The Tar Heels enter this game ranked 12th in the nation in scoring, putting up 84.8 ppg, while also ranking 54th in FG% (46.9%), 122nd in 3-point shooting (36.2%) and 164th in free throw shooting (70.4%). At the defensive end of the floor they have been decent as they come in ranked 133rd in points allowed, giving up 70.7 ppg, while also ranking 53rd in defensive FG% (41.5%) and 116th in 3-point defense (33.8%).

Trends

Gonzaga is:

  • 1-4-1 ATS in their last six NCAA Tournament games
  • 0-3-1 ATS in their last 4 vs. the Atlantic Coast

North Carolina is:

  • 21-8-3 ATS in their last 32 neutral site games as a favorite
  • 21-10-1 ATS in their last 32 NCAA Tournament games as a favorite

The Heels have a chance to make amends for their last second loss in the finals last year to Villanova, but they are taking on a very tough Gonzaga team that has just one loss on the year. I know that the Zags are very good, but they didn’t play the competition that the Heels did all year and in the tournament, their path to the finals was a bit easier than that of the Heels. The Zags topped 11th seeded Xavier and 2nd seeded South Carolina in their last two games, while the Heels were beating 2nd seeded Kentucky and 3rd seeded Oregon, plus the Heels faced an ACC schedule all year, while the Zags face a WCC schedule. We also need to look at experience and the Heels were in this game last year, while this is the first time ever for the Zags. The Zags have an edge on defense, but their offense has struggled in the tourney as they have averaged just 73.2 ppg in their five games and that was against a lesser schedule than the Heels, who have averaged 83.8 ppg vs a tougher slate of games. The Heels have the overall talent edge and the experience factor, plus they will be highly motivated after last year’s last-second loss in this game. Carolina wins this one by at least five points.

Prediction: North Carolina -1.5

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David Hess

I have always had a fascination with numbers and sports, so I combined the two to become a handicapper and a blogger. I love sports and I love writing about them and all the info I put in my blogs is well-thought-out and well-researched. I am a big fan of all the major sports and the colleges, plus I know golf pretty well, tennis and the WNBA. I am very versatile. Hope you enjoy my content.