The 2016 NCAA men’s basketball champion will be crowned tonight. That’s when the North Carolina Tar Heels, the only remaining No. 1 seed in the tournament, will play the No. 2 seed Villanova Wildcats. This will be the seventh time that UNC and Villanova have faced off in an NCAA tournament. They last met in the Final Four in 2009, when North Carolina stomped out Villanova with a score of 83–69 and went on to win the title.
What you need to know about the Tar Heels
If North Carolina prevails against Villanova on Monday, it will be the team’s third championship under coach Roy Williams, and the Tar Heels’ sixth national title. This is the 10th time that North Carolina has reached the title game.
How the Tar Heels made it to the NCAA championship game
North Carolina enters the title game following an 83–66 win over Syracuse. It was the third time this season that UNC had defeated the Orange. Tar Heels All-America Brice Johnson dominated the court on Saturday, just as he did in the two previous Syracuse match-ups. He scored 16 points and had nine rebounds.
Justin Jackson tied Johnson as UNC’s leading scorer with 16 points, and Kennedy Meeks added 15 points, along with eight rebounds. The Tar Heels shot 53.8%, although they only went 4 for 17 from the three-point line.
Why the Tar Heels could win
North Carolina’s strength lies in its offense. The Tar Heels have won each tournament game by at least 14 points. North Carolina has won its past 10 games and is slightly favored to win the championship game too. After UNC’s win on Saturday, Johnson explained what he expected in the final game. “We just need to go out there and play the way we know how to play,” he said, “ and be ready for a dog fight.”
Villanova advances to its third NCAA championship game on Monday. The last time the Wildcats won a national title was in 1985. That year, Villanova narrowly prevailed over Georgetown with a 66–64 win. Nova’s only other trip to the championship was in 1971, when the Wildcats lost 68–62 to UCLA.
How the Wildcats made it to the NCAA championship game
On Saturday night, Villanova obliterated Oklahoma, beating the Sooners 95–51. The Wildcats’ 44-point margin of victory is the largest in Final Four history; it is also the largest in NCAA tournament history. When the Wildcats and Sooners met in regular-season action, Oklahoma soundly defeated Villanova 78–55. But things worked out much differently on Saturday when Villanova shot 71.4% from the field and 61.1% from three-point range. Josh Hart led Nova in scoring with 23 points.
Why the Wildcats could win
Villanova won four of its five tournament games by 19 points or more; the Wildcats won one of those five games by five points. During the tournament, they have been 48 for 98 from the three-point line (48.9%). That ranks them as the best three-point shooting team in the nation.
When coach Jay Wright was asked for his thoughts on the game, he said, “The matchups are unique. We are different teams. It's going to be a battle of wills.”
Villanova enters the championship on a run of momentum that could take the team all the way to the title. Looking ahead to Monday’s final, Wright said, “This is going to be a good game.”
Villanova and North Carolina play tonight at 9:19 ET on TBS.
Photographs: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images (Johnson); Lance King/Getty Images (Wright)