What To Watch For In The NCAA Championship

By JIM O'CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Some things to watch for in Monday night’s NCAA championship game:
IN THE MIDDLE
Both teams have size in the middle and quality depth at the position.
Gonzaga’s 7-foot-1, 300-pound Przemek Karnowski will go at North Carolina’s 6-10, 260-pound Kennedy Meeks.
Meeks has been playing really well in the tournament, getting seven points and 17 rebounds in the regional final against Kentucky and then scoring 25 points with 14 rebounds in the Final Four win over Oregon. He is averaging a career-high 9.4 rebounds this season.
Zach Collins, a 7-foot freshman, backs up Karnowski and he had 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks against South Carolina in the national semifinal.
North Carolina’s reserves up front include 6-9 senior Isaiah Hicks and 6-11 freshman Tony Bradley.
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MISSED SHOTS
North Carolina’s most effective offensive weapon is a made field goal. Second, is its misses. The Tar Heels average 15.8 offensive rebounds per game, tops in the nation. They have scored 20 or more second-chance points 16 times this season and they won all of those games.
Gonzaga averages 9.7 offensive rebounds per game.
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DEFENSE
Gonzaga allows 61.2 points per game and they have stayed at the number for the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs allow teams to shoot just 36.5 percent, 29.5 percent from 3-point range.
“They change their defenses a little but not much. They’re mostly a man-to-man team,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said.
North Carolina will present a different problem for the Zags.
“The biggest challenge is their transition defense,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Getting back, and they’re so fast and so good at it.”
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ON THE SIDELINE
North Carolina’s Roy Williams is in his ninth Final Four and fourth championship game, two of which were titles in 2005 and ’09. The Tar Heels were in the title game last year and lost on a buzzer-beater to Villanova.
Gonzaga’s Mark Few is a rookie in Final Fours and title games. He has taken the Zags to the NCAA Tournament all 18 years he’s been there.
“I think experience takes care of some of this stuff,” Williams said at Sunday’s media event. “But when the game starts, nobody cares how long these guys had to sit at a press conference. …
“That’s the bottom line. And we’ve played some teams before that I thought we could win nine out of 10. But the national championship game, it’s only one.”
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IN RESERVE
Both teams have quality players coming off the bench and they are capable of being that championship game star.
Gonzaga has 7-foot freshman Zach Collins, who had 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in the Final Four win over South Carolina. Silas Melson is the first backcourt reserve and he had six points, four rebounds and three assists against the Gamecocks. He was 2 for 3 from 3-point range, where he shot 38.9 percent this season.
North Carolina has three reserves averaging at least 5.0 points per game in the tournament. That starts with Luke Maye, whose 10.4 average includes the winning jumper against Kentucky in the regional final.
Tony Bradley, a freshman big man, is averaging 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in the tournament while guard Nate Britt averages 5.2 points and is tied for second in assists with 10.
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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

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