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Kansas gets edge over North Carolina in title game matchup

Who: No. 1-seeded Kansas (33-6) vs. No. 8 North Carolina (29-9)

When: 6:20 p.m. Monday

Where: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans


Radio: KWWN (1100 AM, 100.9 FM)

Line: Kansas -4½; total 152½

How they got here: Kansas has dominated as a top seed, winning its five NCAA Tournament games by an average of 16.2 points. North Carolina has had a tougher path and defeated No. 1-seeded Baylor, UCLA and Duke among its five wins.

Overview: Fast and furious. Both teams like to get out and run. But the nerves of a national championship game inevitably can lead to some tight feelings, which could affect all those 3-pointers sure to be launched. One of the keys for North Carolina is the health of forward Armando Bacot, who grabbed 21 rebounds against Duke in the semifinals Saturday but twisted an ankle late in the game. If he’s limited, expect Kansas forwards David McCormack (25 points and nine rebounds Saturday against Villanova) and Jalen Wilson to take advantage. Guards most often win in March, and the Tar Heels have good enough ones to pull off the upset.

Matchup to watch: Caleb Love (North Carolina) vs. Ochai Agbaji (Kansas). Whether they guard each other is irrelevant. They are two of the top scorers in the tournament, and each has the ability to carry his team. Love scored 28 against Duke, and Agbaji made 6 of 7 3-pointers and finished with 21 points against Villanova.

Potential unsung hero: Leaky Black (North Carolina). The senior guard is one of the nation’s top defenders, and his length and athleticism could bother Agbaji if he guards him. Black found his way as more of a facilitator during the season and has overcome injury to shine at the most important time.

Stat to consider: Kansas has attempted 91 3-pointers in the tournament. North Carolina’s Brady Manek and Love have attempted 90 combined.

Quote to note: “The games we are winning now, we would have never won in November. We were losing and playing teams close that had no business being on the floor with us. Now, we want to raise a banner. There are plenty up there, but there is always room for another. We want to be remembered forever.” — North Carolina forward Brady Manek.

Prediction: Kansas 76, North Carolina 70.

Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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