HOUSTON — North Carolina is one win from a sixth national championship. Roy Williams is one win from joining coaching royalty.
Only five men have won more than two national championships. All are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and immediately recognizable to college basketball fans.
A win Monday night over Villanova would vault Williams, who won titles in 2005 and 2009, into the group that includes John Wooden (10), Mike Krzyzewski (5), Adolph Rupp (4), Bob Knight (3) and Jim Calhoun (3).
“I’ve never had that thought. I really haven’t,” Williams said Sunday of moving up the title list. “You know, that’s company that is off the charts. But what I’d really, really love is for these guys … to get their first one. That would mean a heck of a lot more to me than any of that other stuff.”
Villanova (34-5) will be trying for its second national championship. The Tar Heels (33-6) last won it all in 2009 and Villanova’s only title came in 1985.
Both teams advanced to the championship game with lopsided wins, but Villanova’s was far more of a blowout than North Carolina’s.
The top-seeded Tar Heels beat 10-seed Syracuse, 83-66, on Saturday night in a national semifinal for their 10th straight win. That was after the Wildcats made easy work of Buddy Hield and Oklahoma, with a 95-51 trampling that was the biggest margin of victory in a national semifinal game.
Villanova did it with 71.4 percent shooting led by Josh Hart, who scored 23 points on 10 of 12 shooting.
That percentage was the second best in the history of the Final Four. The only team to shoot a higher percentage was that eighth-seeded team in 1985 coached by Rollie Massimino, which shot 78.6 percent to pull an upset over Georgetown in the final.
“They shot the ball very efficient tonight,” Hield said of Villanova. “If a team (can) do this, I feel they can go win it all.”
It won’t be easy against the only No. 1 seed to advance to the Final Four this season. Williams’ North Carolina team has won each of its five tournament games this year by an average of 16.2 points.
North Carolina is in the title game for the 10th time, while it will be just the third appearance for Villanova.
The two schools have some tournament history with the Tar Heels beating Villanova in the tournament on the way to their titles in 1982, 2005 and 2009. They downed the Wildcats in the national semifinals in 2009 before beating Michigan State for the championship.
The Wildcats seemed to handle their easy win exactly the way a coach would hope a team with its biggest game to come would. Forward Daniel Ochefu, who was one of six Villanova players to score in double figures, insisted there was no postgame revelry after Saturday night’s victory.
“It was very businesslike,” he said. “No one was celebrating. Everyone understands that our next game on Monday we’ll be playing a great team and we’re not celebrating. We told each other at the end of the game that we have a lot of work to do. We can still get better.”
North Carolina also had a balanced scoring attack in its semifinal win with Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson adding 16 points each to go with 15 from Kennedy Meeks and Marcus Paige’s 13.
But it was the defensive effort of the Tar Heels that Williams was most excited about.
“The last four weeks we’ve been much, much better defensively,” he said. “We had a brain lapse there for about three minutes in the second half, but other than that I thought we were really good defensively against a team that’s hard to guard.”
Both teams like to play with two point guards on the floor at once. For Villanova, it’s senior Ryan Arcidiacono and freshman Jalen Brunson. For North Carolina, it’s senior Paige and sophomore Joel Berry II.
“It’s always good to have multiple ball handlers and creators out there,” Paige said. “You saw (Saturday) night against the zone, Joel was able to penetrate the gaps and I was able to knock down some shots. And other nights I have a matchup where I can get in the paint and create things. And Villanova does the same thing with Brunson and Arcidiacono.”
The matchup on Monday could be interesting inside after both teams dominated in the paint on Saturday. Villanova outscored Oklahoma, 38-20, inside and North Carolina had more points but the same margin by making 50 inside to 32 by Syracuse.
“Our main goal is to play a similar goal to what we played (Saturday), get the ball inside, really try to pound it in there and knock down our free throws,” Meeks said.