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Big Dance Journal, Title Game

   by Larry Ness - 04/04/2016

Big Dance Journal (championship game)

NRG Stadium was expected to present a difficult shooting background but that was hardly the case for Villanova on Saturday, as the Wildcats shot 71.4 percent from the floor (11 of 18 on threes), in beating Oklahoma 95-51. It was the largest-ever margin of victory (44 points) in Final 4 history, topping the 34-point margins delivered by Cincinnati (over Oregon St in 1962) and Michigan St (over Penn in 1979). The Wildcats missed a total of just FIVE shots in the second half, as four of the team's five starters scoured in double digits, the exception being Brunson (eight points).

Oklahoma superstar Buddy Hield had a ‘nightmare’ of a game, making just 4 of 12 shots (1 of 8 on threes) and scoring just NINE points. Fellow guards Cousins and Woodard were a combined 6 of 24 from the floor, including 4 of 14 on threes. Whether it was “the background,” just poor shooting or the ‘Nova defense, the Sooners shot 31.7 percent as a team, including 6 of 27 (22.2%) on threes. The lone No. 1 seed remaining in the tourney (North Carolina) was too much for the surprising Syracuse Orange in Saturday’s second game, who played like a 13-loss team in an 83-66 North Carolina win.

Neither North Carolina (4 of 17) nor Syracuse (8 of 25) shot well from beyond the arc, leaving Final 4 participants, excluding Villanova, a woeful 18 of 69 (26.1%) from three-point range here in Houston (note: Villanova has shot 49% on threes this tourney!). North Carolina dominated inside, making 31 of 48 (64.6%) of its two-point FG attempts, led by Brice Johnson (16 & 9). Like Villanova, four of North Carolina’s five starters reached double digits, with only Berry failing to do so with eight points. Both favorites covered on Saturday and both games went “over” the closing number. As we head to Monday’s championship game, favorites have gone 48-17 SU and 37-27-1 ATS (one pick-em). Totals players have seen 34 games go over and 32 stay under. North Carolina is favored by 2 1/2 points and the over/under number is 149 1/2.

North Carolina (33-6) takes the court tonight looking for its sixth NCAA championship (Roy Williams for his third), while Villanova (34-5) is trying for its second (Jay Wright for his first). Both teams have advanced to this game by going 5-0 ATS, as North Carolina has outscored the opposition 88.0-to-71.8 PPG and Villanova by 84.8-to-60.6 PPG . North Carolina has reached the title game for the 10th time but it will be just the third appearance for Villanova. Is it worthy of mention that North Carolina has beaten Villanova in the tournament on the way to titles in 1982, 2005 and 2009?

Enjoy the game and I’ll be back with a Tuesday recap by 12 noon ET.

Good luck...Larry

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