In a showdown between the East and West, North Carolina opened as a 2-point favorite over Gonzaga in Monday’s NCAA Tournament championship game.
The total is 154½ for the matchup of No. 1 seeds at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Neither team covered the spread in Saturday’s national semifinal games as the Tar Heels outlasted Oregon 77-76 as 4½-point favorites and the Bulldogs held off South Carolina 77-73 as 6½-point favorites.
The Ducks trailed 77-71 with less than a minute left when Tyler Dorsey made a 3-pointer that hit the front of the rim and rattled around before dropping through the hoop to make it 77-74 with 42 seconds left. Keith Smith made a layup to make it 77-76 with 5.2 seconds left and it appeared Oregon would have a chance to tie or win the game at the buzzer. But the Ducks never touched the ball again.
After Kennedy Meeks missed two free throws, Theo Pinson grabbed the rebound for North Carolina. Joel Berry II was then fouled and also missed two free throws before Meeks rebounded the ball and the Tar Heels ran out the clock.
Many late over bettors suffered a brutal bad beat when the Tar Heels missed those free throws as they only needed one point to push the number over the closing total of 153½. But those who got the number early won as the total opened as low as 150.
The Gamecocks, who finished 5-0 against the spread in the tournament, trailed by 14 in the second half before going on a 16-0 run to take a 67-65 lead over the Bulldogs with seven minutes left. Gonzaga freshman Zach Collins — a Bishop Gorman product who had a career game with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks — answered with a 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs the lead for good.
Seventh-seeded South Carolina trailed 75-72 and had the ball and a chance to tie it with 12.7 seconds left. But Gonzaga fouled Sindarius Thornwell before he could shoot with 3.5 seconds left. He made the first free throw and missed the second on purpose in hopes of his teammates grabbing the rebound, but Killian Tillie came away with it for Gonzaga, was fouled and made two free throws to seal the win.