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2017 NCAAB National Championship – UNC vs. Gonzaga Picks

Gonzaga Bulldogs(36-1) @ North Carolina Tar Heels(32-7)

  • Where: University of Phoenix Stadium. Phoenix, Arizona (Neutral Site)
  • When: April 3, 2017 9:20 pm EST
  • Spread: Gonzaga (+1.5) vs North Carolina (-1.5)
  • Moneyline: Gonzaga (+102) vs North Carolina (-122)
  • Over / Under: Over 154 (-110) vs Under 154 (-110)

Many cash players are pleased that popular picks North Carolina and Gonzaga won their semifinal games and will meet for the NCAA Championship on Monday night.

Things could have gone a tad smoother on Saturday, though.

UNC survived a last-minute surge from Oregon, blocking a seemingly unassailable alley-oop and watching bomb after bomb from beyond the arc rim out for the Ducks. On their last possession the Tar Heels won not with a bucket but with trademark rebounding, snagging not one, but two offensive boards in a row to seal the deal.

Meanwhile, the Zags also flashed their biggest asset – crafty coaching and teamwork – in a 77-73 triumph over surprise Final Four entry South Carolina. Leading by three and facing a possible long-range Gamecock jumper with seconds left, the Bulldogs cleverly fouled Sindarius Thornwell…a relatively weak free-throw shooter. Even if the sophomore had made both foul shots, it wouldn’t have helped knock off the #1 seed. But the tense finish has prompted a few still-skeptical pundits to ask when Gonzaga’s good fortune is going to run out.

The Bulldogs are a popular early bet. Most ATS lines opened at UNC (-2) and are moving slowly in Gonzaga’s direction. Bet Online only offers about a $25 difference in money line payout for each black chip on the table.

By now, bettors are familiar with the talent and tactics of each program in the final. So instead of the usual tale of the tape, let’s look at two equally likely outcomes on Monday night – and then at a value bet that isn’t especially sexy but will fatten your wallet as the 2017 Big Dance comes to a close.

Get a 50% bonus for up to $2500 at BetOnline to bet on the 2017 National Championship.

How the Tar Heels win

Bet on North Carolina Tar Heels to win NCAAB TitleGonzaga thrives on out-playing and out-hustling opponents one possession at a time. Instead of playing them at their own game, North Carolina wins where they often win – on the boards.

With constant second-chances at the bucket, UNC grinds away inside and captures the attention of the Zags’ big men and even a guard or two. When that happens, the Tar Heels feint inside, then kick-out to Josh Jackson and a healthy Joel Berry III, both of whom begin to connect from three-point range early in the second half.

Kennedy Meeks, who had a terrific semifinal, proves more effective on the offensive end than either of the Bulldogs’ seven-footers Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins. Burly defenders and a stadium backdrop cause Nigel Williams-Goss to lose his jump shot at a very bad time to go icy.

Falling behind, Gonzaga tries to press the issue and operates far too quickly on offense, leading to unforced errors and fast-breaks in the other direction. UNC prevails as Roy Williams adds more precious metal to a nearly-full trophy case.

How Gonzaga claims the mantle

Bet on Gonzaga Bulldogs to win NCAAB Championship 2017Against Oregon, the Carolina Blue often grabbed an offensive rebound, immediately made one inside pass and attempted another shot. It worked against the Ducks’ meager defense, but it doesn’t against the Zags.

Gonzaga’s defenders are too quick and intelligent in the paint to get out of position, even on second-chance possessions. UNC pushes early-on trying to manhandle their West Coast Conference opponent, but Karnowski looms large (literally) and the Bulldogs’ quick guards take the ball away. Peeking at the scoreboard, Berry tries to do too much by himself and injures his fragile ankle (again).

On offense, the advantage is clear – Gonzaga hits more shots. North Carolina grabs enough offensive rebounds to allay the difference in shooting accuracy, but the turnovers are too much. The Zags collect a few easy transition buckets and otherwise hold the fort, resulting in a close-shave win and their first NCAA title.

For value, look under the rug

Bet on Under 154 points in UNC vs. Gonzaga at Bovada.

The O/U line for Monday in Phoenix is set at 154 points. That’s too high. Caught up with the potential scoring punch on both sides, casinos have forgotten that Gonzaga is one of the best defensive teams to play in the NCAA Tournament in the last five years.

In ten combined games, the two finalists have only seen the scoreboard tally 154+ points twice in the tourney. Both of those final scores occurred in early UNC wins against over-matched foes.

The Zags have shown they can shoot in the Big Toaster, converting around 48% of attempts from the field on Saturday. But Mark Few’s game plan will not involve a frantic offensive pace, and North Carolina will do a good job of challenging perimeter shots.

Guards on both teams will take their time running the show, and it would take a super-lucky shooting performance by either squad to crack 80 points. Even a 77-76 final score falls under the O/U line.

When a “boring” bet is the payoff play

If you’re a millionaire and betting peanuts just for the heck of it, the fun wager is the ML. Pick a sentimental favorite and whoop it up with the rest of the bar until the final buzzer sounds.

But for the serious player, winning is more important. A money line wager on the 2017 final is simply too volatile, with a team of destiny taking on a team of power at a neutral site. Who can predict that outcome?

The under is the play. While others are knocking down jello-shots and screeching themselves hoarse, you will be quietly watching contested shots bounce off the rim. When the final score looks more like a high school tally (think 67-61) than an NBA dunk-fest, you can order that round for the house.

Don’t walk the other way when bookies leave a door wide open. Wager your units on under (154) and exit March Madness smelling like an April rose.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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