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Can North Carolina keep up with Kansas after emotional win over Duke?

While Kansas cruised to a Final Four win over Villanova, North Carolina's back-and-forth with Duke came down to the wire. Does that give Kansas an edge?

NEW ORLEANS — After a long, long month of college basketball, we are finally at the end of the 2022 March Madness season as North Carolina takes on Kansas.

These are a couple of blue bloods, but their paths to the title game couldn't be anymore different.

North Carolina comes into the game as an 8-seed and they're looking to become just the second team seeded higher than three to win the title in the past 25 years (Connecticut, 7-seed, 2014). 

Meanwhile, Kansas comes in as a one seed. They're coming off a dominating performance against Villanova, winning by 16 points in that game, while North Carolina is coming off a down-to-the-wire finish against Duke in what was a back-and-forth rollercoaster of a game.

Will UNC have the legs to run with Kansas on Monday night?

Isaac Schade of the Locked On Tar Heels podcast, your daily podcast covering all things North Carolina, joined Peter Bukowski on Monday's Locked On Today podcast to discuss UNC's win over Duke and how they match up against Kansas.

SUBSCRIBE: The Locked On Today podcast hosted by Peter Bukowski gets you caught up every morning on the biggest stories in sports without taking up your free time.

How to watch the national championship

Time: 9:20 p.m. E.T.
Television: TBS
Spread: Kansas -4, O/U 152

Keys to the game

Armando Bacot's health

We saw North Carolina big man Armando Bacot exit Saturday's game against Duke with about five minutes to play, but he did re-enter the game.

X-rays are negative and Bacot will play, but Schade said we'll need to keep a close eye on his mobility. He won't have an easy task defensively, taking on Kansas' David McCormick, who put up 25 points in their Final Four win over Villanova.

“One of the three biggest things I’m watching are Armando Bacot’s health, he went down with a twisted ankle. Coach Davis told us x-rays were negative, the training staff is glad with where his swelling is at and Bacot himself told us there’s no way I’m not playing in this game, you’d have to saw my leg off," Schade said. "So we need to watch his mobility and see how he’s doing.”

Leaky Black vs. Ochai Agbaji

This will be the defense vs. offense matchup of the game as Carolina's top perimeter defender Leaky Black will have a tough test against Kansas' Ochai Agbaji, who put up 21 points on Saturday, going 6-for-7 from three.

“Number two biggest thing I'll be watching, Leaky Black. Carolina’s defensive stopper. Can he do another job on Ochai Agbaji, the way he’s done on Duke’s AJ Griffin. Black wouldn’t tell us explicitly who he’d be guarding, but he said in jest, we could all guess."

X-Factors

X-factor's in this game include North Carolina's Brady Manek and Kansas' Christian Braun.

Manek has been North Carolina's leading scorer this season. He's made at least three three-pointers in every game so far in the NCAA Tournament. Carolina will rely on him again to make clutch shots to keep up with Kansas' sharp shooters.

Meanwhile, Kansas' Christian Braun has been quietly very solid in the tournament. With Leaky Black guarding Agbaji, Braun will need to step up and knock down big shots to give the Jayhawks an edge.

SUBSCRIBE: The Locked On Tar Heels podcast is your daily show covering all things North Carolina basketball and football. Find it for free wherever you get your favorite shows!

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