Gonzaga (+1) vs. North Carolina (-1)

Over/Under: 154.5

You’ve made it. Congratulations. The NCAA March Madness Tournament is ending. Sixty-eight teams started the hectic slate, only two remain.

The National Championship game is here.

Like usual, whenever there are two No. 1 seeds squaring off for the big dance, the spread is microscopic. The one-point gap is typical. It’s basically a pick ’em with a small, infinitely tiny chance of becoming a push—which, for the record, you cannot exactly rule out this time of year; there have been crazy endings to the NCAA’s National Championship game in the past, and both North Carolina and Gonzaga enter on mostly even ground.

The over/under for this one suggests the game will be more about North Carolina’s play style. They, like, Gonzaga prefer to run the rock through the inside. But they run a lot more ball-screens for their guards, in an attempt to shoot slightly more threes. This line essentially banks on Gonzaga being forced to make a majority of the adjustments.

Something to consider, though: Only three of the last 10 title games have cleared the 155-point benchmark, as this one would need to in order to meet the over. Even the best offenses sometimes stall in the last game of the season, often by design, when they’re trying to protect leads, however small, rather than win the game by a wide margin. And if you’re burning through almost the entirety of a 35-second shot clock, it’s pretty tough to clear the 155-point plateau.

The average total score for North Carolina’s five tournament games is 155.5—right at the 154.5 line. And they’ve failed to eclipse that sum through three of their last four games. That mean is boosted by the 103-64 and 92-80 rompings they handed to Texas Southern (first round) and Butler (third round), respectively.

Gonzaga, meanwhile, enters with the topped ranked defense in the nation, in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions. The average score of their five tournament games has hovered around 135—noticeably below this 154.5-point threshold. Not a single one of their outings has topped the 155-point mark, either.

It seems like a bit of stretch, then that this game will buck the trend of both teams. If North Carolina does have one of its trademark detonations, Gonzaga won’t be able to keep up, in which case slumping morale should taper their total, making it difficult for this tilt to cover the over anyway. And this meetup becomes more Gonzaga-driven, the final score won’t even come close to sniffing 155 points. Either way, the under looks like a good bet.

Picking a winner is more difficult. North Carolina has shown it can win physical slogs against Oregon and Kentucky, but their average margin of victory isn’t very high. It journeys above 12 points for the tournament, but that’s only because of their 39-point drubbing of Texas Southern in the opening round. Over their last four games, though, they’re winning by an average of 5.5 points.

Gonzaga’s overall margin of victory for the tournament is smaller, checking in at 11.4 points. Their last four games, though, they’ve beaten opponents by an average of more than nine points—much closer to their month-long mean than North Carolina.

With that being said, the Tar Heels have faced a tougher road to this point, having been forced to play both inside and outside their comfort zone against higher seeds. This isn’t to say the Bulldogs’ road has been easy. It has, however, been easier.

For all the versatility North Carolina has shown, they deserve to be your pick in tonight’s affair.

The Pick: North Carolina (-1), under

Results / FixturesNCAAB