Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, April 3, 2017 at 9:28 AM
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - IT'S GONZAGA VS. NORTH CAROLINA IN A BATTLE OF #1 SEEDS BUT WHO REALLY HAS THE ADVANTAGE TONIGHT?
PLUS WE GETCHA MAJOR-LEAGUE BASEBALL OPENING DAY NEWS/NOTES
They have been playing the NCAA Tournament every year since 1939 and there's a slew of teams that have been champions on multiple occasions as UCLA (11), Kentucky (8), Duke (5), Indiana (5) and - yes - North Carolina (5) have loads of experience cutting down the nets at the end of a hoops season.
Gonzaga, not so much.
Okay, so the West Coast Conference champions have been regulars at the "Big Dance" for the better part of the past two decades but never before this year did these Bulldogs make it to the Final Four and now here's the Spokane squad on the brink of a first-ever crown following last Saturday's hang-on-for-dear-life 77-73 non-cover win against 7-point underdog South Carolina.
And guess what?
Gonzaga truly may have the advantage tonight in that the Zags don't figure to get spooked by a large front court - in fact, there are some so-called experts that believe big men Przemek Karnowski (7-foot-1, 300-plus pounds) and star-on-the-rise Zach Collins (7-foot freshman) will win the proverbial battle of the paint here against the UNC front line that features national semifinal hero Kennedy Meeks (25 points and 14 rebounds in 77-76 non-cover triumph over 4.5-point pup Oregon) and, if this title tilt comes down to production from the front courts, then they might well be crowning a brand new king of college b-ball this evening ... one that hopes for multiple championships someday but one that right now doesn't own a single crown.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have steamrolled their way through the entire NCAA Tournament and now it's time to cap the "Big Dance" with tonight's Side & Totals action between top seeds Gonzaga versus North Carolina. Get in now on the NCAA Tournament Championship Game - just go online here or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 -- and we'll send you straight into the winner's circle. Hey, we're also banging out lots of NBA winners and you don't want to miss the start of this 2017 Major-League Baseball Season too and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the action this month.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#1 GONZAGA (37-1) vs. #1 NORTH CAROLINA (32-7) - 9:20 p.m. ET, CBS
Sorry, but we don't want to hear any more about the ankles of North Carolina point guard Joel Berry II (his 2-of-14 FG shooting game the other night couldn't have been all because of his hurtin' joints, right?) or the blurry vision suffered by aforementioned Zags big man Karnowski.
After all, this is the "men's tournament" and now we are about ready to find out what men step forward at crunch time and which men possibly shrink in the spotlight.
We will say this ... Gonzaga gets high grades for taking South Carolina's best punch the other night after allowing the Gamecocks to run off a 16-0 scoring spree as Collins swatted away some key enemy shots (he had six blocks in all to go along with 14 points and 13 boards) and G Nigel Williams-Goss (23 points) was lightning-quick in drives to the hoop.
If Karnowski and Collins can fill up the stat sheet here - we're thinking 30 points and 20 rebs between 'em) and Williams-Goss can fly past Berry to some easy hoops, than 1.5-point underdog Gonzaga will let the chips fall where they may while it's no secret that the key to the Tar Heels' success is ... everyone now ... offensive rebounding and that was evident in the late, late, late stages against Oregon when North Carolina plucked key offensive boards off a pair of missed free throws.
No doubt it's advantage North Carolina for experienced championship game coach Roy Williams over Mark Few plus the Heels are no doubt more athletic but if the game is won or lost in the five or six feet area near the rims, then you might be surprised to find out the Zags have the advantage there.
Simple formula for a North Carolina win here: Get ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson - who drained some tough corner jumpers the other night versus the Ducks - to get into a full-court rhythm here and let F Luke Maye (the hero against Kentucky in the Elite 8) get some standstill open jumpers too. North Carolina often forgets about some of its star players (Maye had just 2 points in 13 minutes last Saturday) and simply cannot afford to do so here.
Here's the road to the NCAA Tournament Championship Game for both #1 West Regional champ Gonzaga and #1 South Regional champ North Carolina:
|3-16||South Dakota St.||- 23||66-46|
|3-23||West Virginia||- 3||61-58|
|4-1||South Carolina||- 7||77-73|
|3-17||Texas Southern||- 26.5||103-64|
NCAA TOURNAMENT POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART
Note: We have included all the conferences/leagues that have two-or-more pointspread verdicts in this year's NCAA Tournament - so this is how things looked spreadwise while heading into tonight's NCAA Championship Game:
Isn't it something that the two leagues still standing here on the final night of the college basketball season have a combined won/loss mark of 5-18-2 ATS (against the spread) in this year's NCAA Tournament for a putrid .217 winning rate versus the vig ... geez!
THE BASEBALL OPENING DAY (I AND II) REPORT
The geniuses that run Major-League Baseball have run roughshod over the traditions of the sport have - in recent years - allowed for not one but two "Opening Day(s)" and thus Monday's dozen games that arrive with all the usual pomp and circumstance do come one day after a made-for-TV tripleheader that featured plenty of bizarre items including two home runs hit by San Francisco Giants' LHP Madison Bumgarner - in a 6-5 loss, no less - and one of the worst outings ever by New York Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka (7 runs, 8 hits allowed in 2.2 innings).
In Opening Day II, lots of attention will be paid to the Houston Astros - a very vogue pick to win it all - as they face RHP Felix Hernandez and the visiting Seattle Mariners while the New York Mets trust that RHP Noah Syndergaard can stifle an improved Atlanta Braves squad that always seems to beat the Mets when starting RHP Julio Teheran.
Oh, in case you're wondering the "manager most likely to get fired first" - all of a sudden a cool prop play for the Las Vegas/off-shore crowd - is Cincinnati's Bryan Price ... book it!
NOTE: Catch our NCAA Championship Game Re-Cap in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.