In a basketball world where elite defensive play and marksmanship are valued and prioritized, this national championship game could be decided by the tall, physical players who have the most impact on the rim.
Armando Backot of North Carolina, a 6-foot-10 center, has more double-doubles in 2021-22 than anyone in the Atlantic Coast Conference has ever recorded in a single season. And 6-foot-10 Kansas forward David McCormack battled a leg injury to lead his team to the title game.
Both teams are filled with players who have taken on specific games to help their teams move forward: Tar Heels’ Caleb Love scored 30 points against UCLA in the Round of 16 and daggered 3 points against Duke in the semi-finals, and Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji almost perfect shot against Villanova to help his team to a championship game.
But the battle between Backot and McCormack could be the focus of the game.
Backot, who is recovering from an ankle injury he sustained against Duke, is averaging 16 points and 16.3 rebounds in the tournament. And McCormack had a career night against Villanova, scoring 25 points on 10 of 12 shots.
Both players are part a crop of big players who have dominated the collegiate game this season – including Oscar Chibwe from Kentucky, who won the Naismith Trophy as the best player in the country; Kofi Cockburn from Illinois; and Gonzaga’s Drew Timme as the NBA moves away from old-school centers and players who work predominantly in the lower ranks.
“Two incredible centers who can hit basketballs can hit from under the paint all the time. It’s a big deal for both us and Kansas,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “And it could eventually lead to the winner of this match being the determining factor in who wins the championship.”