NCAA Championship a matchup for big men
AP Basketball Writer
GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you like watching basketball played with big men in the middle, the NCAA Tournament championship game will be a can’t-miss event.
Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski, who weighs in at 7-foot-1 and 300 pounds, will go head-to-head on Monday night with North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks, who enters the game at 6-10 and 260 pounds.
“A type of guy kind of like me, going back to the basket more so than facing up or going to the 3-point line,” Karnowski said of Meeks, a fellow senior.
Meeks said he “likes playing physical, honestly. I feel like I have to do a really good job of running the court, posting up hard, trying to draw fouls.”
Both big men have quality backups.
Karnowski can be spelled or play with freshman Zach Collins , who had a great game in the semifinal win over South Carolina with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.
North Carolina comes off the bench with 6-9 senior Isaiah Hicks and 6-11 freshman Tony Bradley.
Meeks has been a force of late posting seven points and 17 rebounds in the regional final against Kentucky and 25 points and 14 rebounds in the Final Four win over Oregon.
“I pushed him last night, took him out for 3 or 4 minutes, didn’t like one thing he was doing,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said Sunday. “But keep pushing him, keep pushing him, keep pushing him. … He’s just a lovable, big Teddy bear.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few breaks down the big man matchup rather easily.
“To stay out of foul trouble is the first thing,” Few said. “I think both these teams are probably facing for the first time depth that mirrors each other inside, but also a willingness to just keep going and going in there whether it’s off the pass or even off of offensive rebounds to generate a lot of offense inside out.”
Karnowski said he’s glad to face a fellow big man rather than the smaller centers of the teams in the West Coast Conference. Meeks faced a big front line in Florida State but they didn’t have the weight of Gonzaga’s bigs.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of big bodies hitting around,” said Karnowski, a native of Poland who has faced quality big men as the center for the national team. “He’s a big guy like me. He likes to play it back to the basket a lot. So, obviously I’ll try to stop him from going to his moves.”
Karnowski missed the final five minutes of the first half against South Carolina when his right eye was scratched. He returned for the second half and said Sunday he was fine.
North Carolina leads the nation with 15.7 offensive rebounds per game.
“We’ve got to block them out,” Few said. “We faced a really good offensive rebounding team in South Carolina. West Virginia was an excellent rebounding team. Their percentages were very high and a lot of their offense generated from that. But I mean Carolina is just a different entity from that.”
Meeks said the Tar Heels know what they need to do against the Zags’ bigs.
“I just think making them work hard for the ball is the biggest thing,” he said. “Those guys are great at backing guys down and good at making the shots and making angles. I’d say the biggest thing we’ll focus on is trying to eliminate them from getting as many post touches as possible.”
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