It’s go time. Maybe not for the Cincinnati Bearcats (someday!), but the national title is on the line tonight, as the Gonzaga Bulldogs face the North Carolina Tar Heels. Here’s who Down the Drive advises you to cheer for tonight.
Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Time/Channel: 9:19 p.m./CBS
Line: North Carolina -2
Both of these teams are No. 1 seeds. One of the downfalls of this part of the tournament is its usually devoid of Cinderella stories. Although this will be just the eighth final to feature two No. 1 seeds since the field expanded to 64 teams, there have only been three Final Fours without a No. 1 seed. So how do we decide on a team to support temporarily?
Is there a Cincinnati Connection?
John Jakus, Gonzaga’s director of basketball operations, coached high school ball at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Meanwhile, no one on the UNC staff or roster seems to have any direct connection with Cincy.
Is there a history between UC and either team?
Yes. Yes it does. With both actually.
The Tar Heels have beaten UC seven times in eight all-time meetings, although the Bearcats won the most recent matchup, claiming a 77-68 victory in 1999.
The history with Gonzaga is less lengthy (three games), although its not like the Tar Heels and Bearcats would be considered long-time rivals either. However, there is more recent wounds inflicted by the Bulldogs, who defeated UC in 2003 and 2009, with the latter coming in an overtime conflict and the former coming in the first round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
But before you jump on the anti-Zags train, remember that March loss pales in comparison to the Elite Eight setback the Bearcats suffered at the hands of eventual champion North Carolina in 1993.
Which team plays most similarly to UC?
If Mick Cronin could take over either of these teams, he would likely pick Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 in the country in adjusted defense and 77th in adjusted tempo this season. North Carolina is great on defense as well (No. 16), but is better known for its offensive ability, ranking seventh in adjusted offense.
Has either team won an national title before?
We have all lived in the era of Gonzaga’s rise from mid-major Cinderella to national powerhouse, but the Bulldogs have still never won a natty. UNC has five, with its most recent coming in 2009.
Which teams color scheme lines up better with UC?
Gonzaga sports navy blue, white and red. North Carolina has one of the most iconic color schemes in the country. Nobody sees that powder blue and thinks of any other school/team. (Sorry, Rhode Island). Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, that pale blue is not on the same palette as the Bearcats’ red and black.
Which mascot is most like a Bearcat?
A bulldog is a dog and therefore a direct enemy of any type of cat. UNC’s Tar Heel mascot is actually based on North Carolina state history, although the exact story is up for debate. So a Tar Heel is actually a person and not the ram that serves as a mascot during games for UNC. Either way, a bulldog seems to have more in common, even if it is enmity, with a Bearcat than Revolutionary War soldiers from North Carolina.
Does either team have a Justin Jackson impersonator?
Gonzaga does not, but those jerks at UNC do. Apparently its version of Justin Jackson is a former McDonald’s All-American who is averaging 18.3 points per game this season and not the shot rejecting force that was named American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2014.
Point: Gonzaga. There can only be one Justin Jackson.
It’s pretty clear who you should be rooting for if you count yourself a Bearcat fan. Let’s go Zags.