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Blue blood battle: Kansas, North Carolina ready for NCAA title game

Kansas and North Carolina have two of the most successful men’s basketball programs in NCAA history.

They both will have an opportunity to add to their accomplishments when they meet for the national championship on Monday night in New Orleans.

The Jayhawks (33-6) are seeking their fourth national championship, which would break a tie for seventh most with Villanova, which they beat 81-65 in Saturday’s first national semifinal. They were the only #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Final Four.

The Tar Heels (29-9) have the third-most titles as they seek #7 in coach Hubert Davis’ first season.

“Both teams are as blue as you can get when you talk about blue bloods,” Kansas coach Bill Self said Sunday.

These blue bloods have connections beyond just their historical success.

Legendary Tar Heels coach Dean Smith, who led UNC to championships in 1982 and 1993, played on Kansas’ 1952 national championship team.

Roy Williams, who attended UNC and was an assistant under Smith there, coached the Jayhawks for 15 seasons before returning to coach the Tar Heels for 18 seasons, winning championships in Chapel Hill in 2005, 2009 and 2017 before retiring a year ago.

Self has brought Kansas to the Final Four for a fourth time, but he has just one national championship (2008) to show for it.

“At most places winning one national championship would be quite an accomplishment,” Self said. “I think as many good teams as we’ve had, one’s not enough.”

Self noted the disparity in how these teams utilize 3-pointers. The Tar Heels’ Caleb Love (18 of 50) and Brady Manek (19 of 40) have combined to attempt just one fewer 3-pointer than the entire Kansas team during the NCAA Tournament.

UNC (10 of 26) outscored Duke (5 of 22) by 15 points from beyond the arc in an 81-77 victory in the second semifinal.

But the Jayhawks’ focus on shot quality more than volume. They’re making 40.6 percent of their 3-pointers in the tournament, and on Saturday they matched Villanova’s 13 treys while attempting seven fewer (24 to Villanova’s 31). The Tar Heels are shooting 36 percent on 3-pointers.

“We have to make 3s,” North Carolina coach Davis said of his team, a #8 seed in the tournament. “But the beauty for us is that we have a number of guys that can shoot 3s. It’s not just one 3-point shooter. We’ve got a number of guys that can shoot the ball.

“Our emphasis is to attack the basket. First and foremost, we want to feed the ball down to Armando (Bacot), plain and simple, period, the end. We want him to dominate down low in the post.”

Bacot left Saturday’s game briefly because of an ankle injury but finished the game. Davis said Bacot, who had 11 points and 21 rebounds against Duke, would participate in the Tar Heels’ “very limited” practice Sunday and play Monday.

Bacot will be matched against David McCormack, who had 25 points and nine rebounds against Villanova.

Kansas didn’t know its opponent until after 10 p.m. Saturday, the same time that UNC knew it would be playing in the title game.

“Preparation is important,” Self said Sunday, “but let’s not kid ourselves. We’re going to practice for 30 minutes today and Carolina is going to practice for 30 minutes today. And you’re not going to change a lot what you’re doing just for this one game.”

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