during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Wells Fargo Center on March 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Preview: 2016 Men’s Basketball National Championship

The table is set: No. 2 Seed Villanova will take on No. 1 Seed North Carolina in the final game of the 2015-2016 college basketball season. Both teams have battled their way through some tough games to reach this point, and neither team could have more confidence as they prepare for Monday night’s tilt.

Villanova enters the National Championship riding high following their 44-point rout of Oklahoma in the Final Four, easily the largest margin of victory in national semi-final history. Their defense was stifling, holding Buddy Hield to a meager nine points and shutting Oklahoma’s powerful offense down. Jay Wright’s game planning in the tournament this year has been stellar, giving the Wildcats a legitimate chance to win their second national championship in school history.

This is Villanova’s third Final Four since 1980, and their first since 2009. Of course, Villanova does not have the same recruiting draw that teams such as North Carolina do, yet they have been every bit as convincing as a potential contender for the title this year. They’ve scored 85 points in five of six tournament games this March and their defense has been exceptional. Their 71% shooting display on Saturday was the best in a Final Four since…Villanova in 1985.

We’ve seen what Nova is capable of offensively, but it’s their defensive scheming that’s brought them this far. Villanova does an exceptional job of mixing up defenses to leave opposing offenses confused and struggling to find their rhythm. They will extend their press to half court, 3/4 court, even full court at times, and the press could be any variation of 2-1-2, 1-2-2, man-to-man, or anything in between. Sometimes, the set they run in the half court will be completely different than the press they brought up the court. Head coach Jay Wright has the Cats playing at the top of their game.

North Carolina’s path to the Final Four, though not filled with records, has been every bit as convincing as Villanova’s. In every game they’ve played, both in the ACC Tournament as well as the NCAA Tournament, UNC has overmatched their opponents, dominating them with athleticism and pure skill. Roy Williams has truly brought out the best in this veteran bunch. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Let’s flash back to the last two North Carolina teams to finish their seasons with wins: 2004-05 and 2008-09. Both of those teams were not only powerful, but also predominantly led by the Tar Heels’ upperclassmen. In 2005, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Sean May carried the Heels past a very talented Illinois team for a national championship. In 2009, the story was similar as UNC was carried by Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough led the Heels past Michigan State.

This year’s team couldn’t feel more like those UNC teams that rolled through their NCAA Tournaments in dominating fashion. Of course, this year, the Heels have an ACC Title under their belts, a feat the previously mentioned teams failed to accomplish. Yet, this year’s Heels are lead by more upperclassmen, much the same way ’05 & ’09 were. Marcus Paige, Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson, Joel James, Isaiah Hicks, and Nate Britt, all either juniors or seniors, have dominated their tournament competition thus far. Again I ask, this sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

This year’s championship is a battle of two storied programs and two exceptional basketball coaches. Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats, led by exceptional shooting and stellar defense will battle Roy Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels, powered by some of the most athletic upperclassmen in the country.

Villanova’s guard play will be crucial for them if they hope to defeat the Tar Heels. Senior Ryan Arcidiacono, junior Josh Hart, and freshmen Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges have been a sensational rotation for the Cats’ backcourt to this point, and each of them will have to play at their best to beat North Carolina.

The frontcourt for Villanova will more than have their hands full with the deep and powerful bigs from UNC. The Tar Heels can throw any number of massive athletes to bang down low, something that has a tendency to wear out their opposition. In this game, with Nova only having three forwards in their regular rotation, the Carolina bigs will be in prime position to dominate and control the pace of the game, as long as Marcus Paige can handle the Villanova pressure.

Prediction

ScoreNorth Carolina 78 – Villanova 71.

Tournament MVPBrice Johnson

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