After months of season-long action and weeks of a frenetically-paced 2022 NCAA Tournament that began with 68 teams, the March Madness bracket boils down to an epic championship matchup Monday evening at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans between two of the sport’s top blue bloods: No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 8 seed North Carolina. History awaits. As such, the end of the 2022 college basketball season is now just hours away.
Storylines abound in this one as we prepare to crown a champion. Kansas coach Bill Self looks to secure his second championship at KU nearly 14 years to the day of his first and only one with the Jayhawks. The chance for a title comes two years after his team would have likely been the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament that was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For North Carolina, coach Hubert Davis is also aiming to make history after becoming just the fifth first-year coach to ever take a team to a title match in Year 1. His Tar Heels are on the cusp of becoming the second team ever to win a championship as No. 8 seed — company kept only by legendary 1985 Villanova. No team with a lower seed has ever ran through the entire bracket.
Our team of experts have picks for the historic season finale Monday below both straight up and against the spread. Take a look at their predictions below.
Keys to 2022 NCAA championship
Perimeter showdown: Kansas wing Ochai Agbaji is a CBS Sports first-team All-American who has knocked down of 8 of 9 attempts from 3-point range over the Jayhawks’ last two games. But UNC guard Caleb Love may actually be hotter entering Monday night’s game. The 6-4 sophomore turned in a legendary 30-point game against UCLA in the Sweet 16 when be absolutely caught fire in the second half. Then, against Duke on Saturday night, he scored 28 points and hit a clutch late 3-pointer to help cement the outcome in UNC’s favor. Agabji is more seasoned and steady, but Love is uber-talented and explosive. Whichever team gets more from their star backcourt player will have a big edge.
McCormack vs. Bacot: North Carolina center Armando Bacot racked up 43 rebounds over UNC’s last two games. The CBS Sports All-American is the Tar Heels’ only true center, and he’s been a steady force beneath the basket all season. His counterpart, David McCormack of Kansas, is far more inconsistent. McCormack goes through long stretches when he’s off the radar and a non-factor. Then, out of nowhere, he can burst onto the scene for 25 points and nine rebounds like he did in KU’s win over Villanova on Saturday. On paper, Bacot is the better player and should have an edge. But if Bacot gets in foul trouble or is hampered by the leg issue that bothered him against Duke, a quality showing from McCormack could make the difference in the game for Kansas.
Bench battle: If North Carolina is forced to use its bench much, it could be an issue. The Tar Heels have relied heavily on their starting five in the second half of the season and are particularly lean behind Bacot in the frontcourt. If the game is tightly officiated, someone is ejected or an injury issue pops up, the advantage will go to Kansas. The Jayhawks bring one of their top offensive weapons off the bench in Remy Martin and have a solid backup big man in Mitch Lightfoot. Beyond those two, coach Bill Self also has a few other wild cards he can deploy if needed. Also, if the Jayhawks can get out and run in transition with regularity, it could help wear UNC down.
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook | All times Eastern
2022 NCAA championship predictions
(1) Kansas vs. (8) North Carolina
9:20 p.m. | TBS, March Madness Live: Kansas looked to be in top form Saturday as it not just ousted — but trounced — No. 2 seed Villanova in a dominant showing. Ochai Agbaji was at the peak of his powers, David McCormack owned the paint, and the Jayhawks strutted their way to the national final. UNC, on the other hand, is coming off perhaps the most emotional win of any team in Final Four history after knocking off Duke and ending Coach K’s historic career. Will the Tar Heels be able to keep that momentum going on a short turnaround? I think they’ll be up for the moment to keep this one relatively close, but it’s a tall order to keep it within the 4.5 against this KU team. I’m laying the number. Pick: Kansas -4.5
|KAN -4.5||KAN -4.5||KAN -4.5
||KAN -4.5||KAN -4.5||KAN -4.5|
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