HOUSTON — This year, parity had been the theme in men’s college basketball.
Throughout the season, there wasn’t one dominant team. Six teams have been ranked No. 1 this season. This year, the NCAA tournament was up for grabs.
Or so it was thought.
Yes, there were upsets as always. But in the end, for Monday night’s national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston, it will be two proven teams who have been at or near the top of the rankings all along, when No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Villanova tip off at 9:19 p.m. ET.
“This is going to be a hell of a game,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “This is going to be a good game.”
UNC’s 10th title game appearance
UNC comfortably advanced to the championship game with an 83-66 win against No. 10 seed Syracuse on Saturday in the Final Four.
Reaching this level is nothing new for the Tar Heels (33-6) or for head coach Roy Williams. This is the team’s 10th national championship game appearance, and UNC has won five times, the most recent coming in 2009.
Williams was at the helm that 2009 season; he also won the title with UNC in 2005. He will make his fifth appearance in the national championship game. He is in a tie with Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) and Dean Smith (UNC) for the third-most title game appearances in NCAA history. UCLA’s John Wooden has the record with 10 appearances, while Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is second with nine.
Should he win Monday, Williams would join an elite group of coaches to have at least three titles: John Wooden (10, with UCLA), Krzyzewski (Duke, five), Rupp (Kentucky, four), Jim Calhoun (Connecticut, three) and Bob Knight (Indiana, three).
“You know, that’s company that is off the charts,” Williams said Sunday in a session with his players to the media. “But what I’d really, really love is for these guys up here sitting on this dais with me to get their first one. That would mean a heck of a lot more to me than any of that other stuff.”
First title game since 1985 for Villanova
Villanova (34-5) reached the national championship game emphatically with a 95-51 win against No. 2 seed Oklahoma on Saturday. The Wildcats shot an incredible 71.4% from the field and won by the biggest margin ever in a Final Four game. It was the second-best field goal percentage of the men’s Final Four, trailing only Villanova’s 78.6% effort in the Wildcats’ 1985 national championship win against No. 1 Georgetown on April 1, 1985, one of the biggest upsets in U.S. sports history.
Several players from that 1985 championship team were in attendance for Villanova’s blowout win against Oklahoma, senior forward Daniel Ochefu said.
“Throughout the year, they’re texting us, wishing us luck, giving us advice, stuff like that,” Ochefu said. “It’s always great to be able to represent those guys in the way we’re doing it this year.”
It will be Villanova’s first trip to the national championship game since 1985, when the Wildcats were a No. 8 seed.
But there will one be one person from that 1985 team missing. Because of health issues, ex-Villanova coach Rollie Massimino will remain at home in Florida. He said Sunday in a phone interview on ESPN that he plans to watch the game on television and to take care of his wife, who is not well.
“We would love to have him here, we really would,” Wright said after Saturday’s win against the Sooners. “He’s got some health issues, not major, but that he’s dealing with, with his family.”