Joel Berry II named Most Outstanding Player in 2017 NCAA Tournament

UNC went through it on this night one year ago.

It was an ugly affair, filled with 44 fouls and 52 free throws but, ultimately, the contest with the result the Tar Heels (33-7) simply had to have.

"Nobody thought we'd be the team everybody thought we would be". It happens in every sport, at every level. Which team executes better on both ends?

For a whole year, the North Carolina Tar Heels wondered if they'd get another chance.

And Isaiah Hicks, who struggled to find an offensive rhythm in previous tournament games, came up with a huge bucket with 22 second remaining. After a long delay, the refs called Karnowski for a flagrant foul of his own.

Foul trouble was the story of the second half as both teams got into the double-bonus with 12 minutes left in the game.

Several of the fouls assessed to Collins were especially ticky-tacky, none more so than when he got his fourth jostling for post position away from the ball with more than 15 minutes to go.

Both teams have quality players coming off the bench and they are capable of being that championship game star. Carolina has made its way into the title game for a second straight year by bludgeoning opponents with size in the paint, ranking No. 1 in offensive rebounding rate (40.6 percent) and overall rebounding rate (58.2 percent), but Gonzaga isn't going to wilt under the constant pounding like OR did on Saturday night.

It wasn't a pretty game. The Tar Heels shot a terrible percentage from the three-point line, converting on less than 15 percent of their shots from behind the arc. The six wins put them at third all time, behind only UCLA (11) and Kentucky (eight).

But the point isn't about Kris Jenkins' buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Houston or the fire it lit under the Tar Heels. It was the best and most important shot of his career. Not on Monday, though.

Gonzaga, North Carolina preparing for national title game
Hairston played the four that year. "I thought we were gonna win anyway", Boucher said. "They nearly carried me into the arena". When South Carolina trailed by 14 in the second half Saturday night, the Gamecocks reaction could have been a shoulder shrug.

Can Gonzaga neutralize UNC's advantage inside?

Hard to game-out a scenario in which it won't be in doubt in the final minutes. He made the free throw, and that 3-point play gave the Tar Heels a 66-65 lead. Screen captures from the broadcast showed Meeks' hand was out of bounds.

It doesn't matter who had possession. "These are two heavyweight teams going at it inside, playing really, really physical basketball".

OR pulled within 77-74 on Tyler Dorsey's 3-pointer with 45 seconds left, then cut it to 1 on Keith Smith's layup.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, this call wasn't eligible for a review. "But they've all been fantastic, and I've been very fortunate".

I said it was stupid that such a thing was possible. Defending national champion Villanova was eliminated in the round of 32 by Wisconsin. But I think this game will truly be decided between UNC's offense and Gonzaga's defense.

None of the current Tar Heels were beneficiaries of improprieties that took place over almost two decades and allegedly provided students, mostly football and basketball athletes, with access to no-work or no-show classes to help keep them eligible.

Instead, its tempo and tenor were off.

Last year's NCAA men's semifinal basketball games were decided by a whopping 61 points combined, and slack viewership reflected these blowouts.

As always, Gonzaga will explore the transfer and worldwide market, too.

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