In a basketball world where elite guard play and sharpshooting is both cherished and prioritized, the outcome of this national championship game could be decided by the towering, physical players who make the most impact around the rim.
North Carolina’s Armando Bacot, 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 the 6-foot-10 Kansas forward David McCormack has fought through a foot injury to power his team to the title game.
Both teams are littered with players who have taken over certain games to help their teams advance: The Tar Heels’ Caleb Love scored 30 points against U.C.L.A. in the round of 16 and hit a 3-point dagger against Duke in the semifinal, and Ochai Agbaji of Kansas shot nearly perfectly against Villanova to help his team reach the championship game.
But the battle down low between Bacot and McCormack may be the game’s spotlight.
Bacot, who is dealing with an ankle injury he suffered 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 shooting.
Both players are a part of a crop of bigs who have dominated the college game this season — including Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, who won the Naismith Trophy for national player of the year; Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn; and Gonzaga’s Drew Timme — as the N.B.A. moves away from old-school centers and players who work predominantly in the low post.
“Two unbelievable post players that can rebound the basketball, can score consistently down low in the paint. It’s a big emphasis for us as well as Kansas,” North Carolina Coach Hubert Davis said. “And it could ultimately come down to the winner of that matchup being the determining factor of who wins the championship.”