NEW ORLEANS – It all comes down to one last game.
North Carolina and Kansas – two blue-blooded men in college basketball – will meet for the Division I national championship on Monday night at the Superdome.
The Tar Heels (29-9) are seeking the program’s seventh NCAA Championship title, after winning titles in 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009 and 2017. They are 6-5 in title games. The most recent loss of the North Carolina title game came to Villanova in 2016. Coached by Roy Williams, the Tar Heels returned to the finals a year later to defeat Gonzaga. Only UCLA, at 13, has more title game appearances than North Carolina. The Bruins are 11-2 in such games.
The Jayhawks (33-6) are 3-6 in title games after winning the championship in 1952, 1988 and 2008. In their last title game appearance, Coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks of Kentucky, coached by John, lost Calipari, in 2012. Four years earlier in the title race, Sels team beat Calipari’s Memphis team, which included Derrick Rose.
Here’s what to look for in Monday’s match, which is expected to start on Monday at 9:20 p.m., Eastern time, on TNT and TBS:
Hubert Davis knows what no other coach has.
North Carolina’s Hubert Davis is one win away from becoming the first person to win the Division I men’s basketball championship in his first full season as a coach.
In 1989, Steve Fisher became the interim head coach in Michigan right before the NCAA Tournament and went 6-0 en route to winning a championship. Jim Calhoun was in his 27th season as head coach when he won his first title, the same for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. Roy Williams was in his 17th season as head coach when he won his first title with North Carolina in 2005. Mike Krzyzewski won the first of his five championships in his 11th season at Duke and 16th as head coach.
Davis, 51, spent 12 years playing in the NBA and nine as an assistant to Williams before taking over for him last April. He guided the Tar Heels to victories over defending national champion Baylor; the favorite of the tournament, St. Peter’s; and their most hated rival, Duke =, in Krzyzewski’s last match.
Nine other first-year coaches led a team to the Final Four, most recently Bill Guthridge with North Carolina in 1998. Davis is the ssixth Tar Heels coach to reach a Final Four.
“I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude,” Davis said after the national semifinals. “I think about the experiences I may have had. I had always dreamed of being part of the program. And to think that I had to play for them, to think that I had to return and be an assistant coach, and now I’m the head coach of North Carolina and we’re in the national championship game.
He added: “Looking back, everything important happened in my life because they gave me this opportunity and a chance to be a part of this program. My wife and I fell in love there. We “I got married there. After I played in the NBA, we moved back, we raised our three kids there. Now I’m the head coach there. It’s just a nice deal.”
Davis was asked if Michael Jordan, who played in North Carolina in the 1980s, was expected to be in New Orleans on Monday. Jordan attended the 2017 Final Four in Glendale, Ariz., When the Tar Heels won.
“That would be great,” he said. “I do not want him to just appear. I would like him to play.”
David McCormack will be a big factor for Kansas.
At 6 feet 10 inches and 250 pounds, David McCormack, a Kansas senior, has a lot to handle.
Against Villanova’s undersized frontline, he scored 25 points on 10-of-12 shots and grabbed 9 rebounds. That followed a 15-point, 4-rebound game against Miami.
McCormack figures to play a critical role on Monday, especially as North Carolina’s Armando Bacot is not completely healthy after stepping on his teammate Leaky Black on Saturday.
North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said on Sunday that X-rays on Bacot’s ankle were negative, but that he was “a little hurt.”
“Obviously it’s a great matchup in the post,” Davis said. He added, “It could ultimately come down to the winner of that matchup as the determining factor of who wins the championship.”
Bacot had 21 rebounds against Duke and is averaging 16.8 per game in the tournament.
“I’ve been saying all along that he’s the only man on our team who can get 15 and 10 just by being a presence,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of McCormack after the Villanova game. “He was great.”
Caleb Love has made a difference for North Carolina.
Duke was the dream school of Caleb Love who graduated from Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis. Louis, his father told The St. Louis Post broadcast in 2019.
But Love, a guard for North Carolina, did not want to hear about it after he scored 22 of his 28 points in the game in the second half of Tar Heels’ 81-77 victory over Duke in the national semi final. “That’s false,” he said.
North Carolina Coach Hubert Davis said, “His dream school was North Carolina. He’s living his dream.”
The Tar Heels are playing for their first championship since 2017 thanks in large part to the stellar performances of Love, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard. After managing just 6 points in the first half, he, along with sophomore guard RJ Davis, helped the Tar Heels control the pace.
It was not his first breakout match in the tournament. Against UCLA in the round of 16, Love scored 27 of his best 30 points in the second half of a 73-66 victory. He made 6 of 13 from deep after missing his first seven attempts.
If North Carolina defeats Kansas, it will likely need another such performance from Love, which is widely regarded as a potential second-round NBA draft pick.
“It means everything to me,” Love said of leading his team to the championship. “I could not have done it without my boys and my coaches. I give all the credit to them. They put me in the position and it was a team effort. One more game away from a national championship, what else can you say?”
Kansas Coach Bill Self can join an elite club.
Bill Self can join an elite club by winning his second NCAA championship.
With Mike Krzyzewski (five titles) and Roy Williams (three) without coaching, Villanova’s Jay Wright is the only active men’s basketball coach with at least two NCAA championships, having won titles in 2016 and 2018. With Kansas’ victory over Villanova, Self is in a position to pass Wright.
Iona Coach Rick Pitino won championships in Kentucky (1996) and Louisville (2013), but the latter was abandoned. Active coaches who have one championship include John Calipari of Kentucky, Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Tony Bennett of Virginia and Scott Drew of Baylor.
“I think it has added value for me and the players because there are no guarantees in this tournament,” said Self, 59, whose team is the last remaining number. 1 seed in the tournament. “A lot of times the favorites don’t win, of course.”
He pointed out that his 2020 team was “equipped to make a run”, but the pandemic forced the cancellation of that year’s tournament.
“We were so well defensively,” he said. “And we had enough scores. I thought this was probably an equally prepared team to do well in the tournament as anyone we had.