By Harry Allison
For the second time in three years, a pair of No. 1 seeds will play for the national title when North Carolina (32-7) and Gonzaga (37-1) meet tonight at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Tar Heels, who are making their 20th appearance in the Final Four and 11th appearance in the championship game, are seeking their sixth title and third under Coach Roy Williams. The Bulldogs, who are playing in their 19th consecutive NCAA tournament, had never reached the Final Four before this year.
Gonzaga isn’t the Cinderella story it used to be. The Bulldogs spent four weeks at No. 1 and are the top-ranked team in Ken Pomeroy’s college basketball ratings. Coach Mark Few’s squad also ranked No. 1 in Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency metric, allowing 86.6 points per 100 possessions. The Tar Heels rank third in Pomeroy’s ratings and 16th in defensive efficiency, but they own a slight edge over the Bulldogs in offensive efficiency (seventh vs. 12th, respectively).
One of the biggest — in more ways than one — matchups to watch will be one between Gonzaga’s 7-foot-1, 300-pound Przemek Karnowski (above) and North Carolina’s 6-foot-10, 260-pound Kennedy Meeks. Karnowski had 13 points and five rebounds in the Bulldogs’ win over South Carolina on Saturday, while Meeks had 25 points and 14 rebounds in the Tar Heels’ win over Oregon in the other semifinal.