Kansas vs. North Carolina: Who has position-by-position edge in 2022 NCAA basketball championship game?


Monday’s national championship game between No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 8 seed North Carolina is a battle between two of college basketball’s historical powers. The Jayhawks and Tar Heels own a combined nine national titles and are two card-holding members of the sport’s elite class commonly known as the blue bloods.

Former Kansas coach James Naismith is one of basketball’s founding fathers, and a legendary string of coaches have cycled through both programs since Naismith’s run with the Jayhawks ended over a century ago. The historical significance of two schools like this meeting in the national championship is obvious and provides a great backdrop for what will happen on the court inside the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans on Monday night.

But ultimately, the history and lore of past decades will be irrelevant when the ball is tipped. All the heroes of prior years won’t be able to help the Tar Heels or Jayhawks on Monday night. Instead, it will be players like Dajuan Harris and Leaky Black who are battling to etch their own names in college basketball lore.

So as tipoff approaches, let’s take a position-by-position look at the Kansas vs. North Carolina matchup and see who might have an edge in the 2022 national title game.


Dajuan Harris (Kansas) vs.  RJ Davis (UNC)

Both Harris and Davis are on the small end, and neither stands out as the alpha-type like you often see from point guards on great teams. They have each been instrumental to the success of their teams, though. Davis put up 30 points in a second-round win over No. 1 seed Baylor and had 18 in Saturday’s Final Four win over Duke. Harris isn’t asked to carry a heavy offensive load for the Jayhawks, but his 3-for-5 mark from 3-point range against Villanova in the Final Four was a huge boost in helping KU keep the Wildcats at arm’s length. Ultimately, the offensive capabilities of Davis set him apart in this matchup. Edge: UNC


Ochai Agbaji (Kansas) vs. Caleb Love (North Carolina)

Love could just as easily be considered the “one” for UNC considering how often he has the basketball in his hands and the fact that he and Davis have nearly identical assist numbers. But he’s 4 inches taller than Davis and plays a featured offensive role that makes comparing him to Agbaji a natural exercise. Being compared to Agbaji is a tough task for anyone, though — even for a player like Love who just turned in a legendary performance against Duke. There is no question that Love’s evolution into a star has propelled UNC to this point. But Agbaji’s experience, consistency and 8-of-9 mark from 3-point range over the last two games give him the edge in a comparison of the game’s most important backcourt players. Edge: Kansas


Leaky Black (North Carolina) vs. Christian Braun (Kansas)

Black is like UNC’s version of Harris in that he doesn’t score a ton but has cemented a role because of his success with the intangibles. He is the Tar Heels’ best perimeter defender, which certainly counts for something, and you can always count on him for the hustle plays. But Braun showed with a couple of dagger 3-pointers in the final minutes against Villanova that he’s got the swagger and offensive game to be a key factor on a championship stage. So while Black is a solid role player, Braun is an elite role player with the offensive game to be a difference-maker. Braun could become a superstar next season after Agbaji leaves for the NBA, and we may get a preview on Monday. Edge: Kansas


Brady Manek (North Carolina) vs. Jalen Wilson (Kansas)

These players bring vastly different strengths to the table, which makes the matchup a wash. Manek has taken his assassin-like 3-point shooting skill as a stretch power forward to the next level during the NCAA Tournament. He makes heavily contested looks from the corner look like layups. So in terms of outside shooting, he’s got the edge on Wilson. But Wilson’s versatility and comfort running the floor make up for the perimeter shooting deficiency. Wilson is also enough of an outside threat to keep UNC’s defense from sagging, and he’s got the chops to beat opponents off the dribble. His overall versatility, especially on defense, stand out. Edge: Even


Armando Bacot (North Carolina) vs. David McCormack (Kansas)

David McCormack at his best is plenty capable of bruising with Bacot and negating UNC’s edge under the basket. Thankfully for Kansas, McCormack has been at his best in the last two games and is entering off a season-high 25-point outing against Villanova. But McCormack at his worst could get eaten alive by Bacot, who is far more consistent in his rebounding and scoring contributions than McCormack. Bacot has an absurd 43 rebounds over the last two games, and he will be a hassle for the Jayhawks to deal with. Edge: UNC


Remy Martin and Mitch Lightfoot (Kansas) vs. Puff Johnson and Dontrez Styles (UNC)

UNC’s starters are referred to as the “iron five” for a reason. The reason is because the Tar Heels don’t go deep into their bench. With 6-11 sophomore forward Dawson Garcia away from the team because of family medical concerns, the Tar Heels are particularly lean in the post behind Bacot. Kansas, by contrast, brings one of its best players off the bench in graduate transfer guard Remy Martin. The former Arizona State star played a limited role for KU during the Big 12 slate but is an elite shot-creator and offensive spark for the Jayhawks. With veteran big man Mitch Lightfoot also available to come in and give McCormack a breather under the basket, the Jayhawks have a nice depth advantage in this matchup. Kansas coach Bill Self can go up to 10 deep if he wants. Edge: Kansas


Speaking of Self, he’s got an edge in the coaching matchup due to experience. Now in his fourth Final Four and third national title game, he’s navigated these moments before, and that must be worth something. From a bigger picture standpoint, no one in college basketball has done a better coaching job than Davis in the second half of this season. But in a one-game, 40-minute spectrum, Self’s 29 years of head coaching experience are a trump card. Edge: Kansas


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Anna C. Knight

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