A Tale of Two Cities: Gonzaga Meets UNC in the National Championship

Two opposite forces will collide when Gonzaga takes on North Carolina in the national championship.

Gonzaga and North Carolina will meet one another Monday night in Phoenix, after advancing past their respective Final Four opponents. And while both teams have will have a common goal come game time, these two programs couldn’t be any more different. The programs represent the cities they play in and the great disparity sets the stage for what could be an exciting national championship game.

Gonzaga University is a Jesuit institution located in Spokane, Washington. Spokane, one of the staple cities in the Northwest portion of the United States, is well known for its scenery. The same isn’t always thought of when talking about Gonzaga basketball. The Zags have been a pretty good basketball team for some time now under the direction of head coach Mark Few, but looking at the grand scheme of things, they are far from a perennial power, despite their No. 1 seed.

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The program has had its fair share of decent talent, with names like Adam Morrison, Kelly Olynyk, Kevin Pangos and Ronny Turiaf having graced the Zags locker room. Not even these players could carry Gonzaga to the promised land, however. Having never advanced past the Elite Eight, the Zags lacked what it took to be truly considered a champion. Now, on the grandest stage for the first time in program history, they have the opportunity to cement the efforts of their coach and the players that came before them.

To make it to the national championship game, Gonzaga were tasked with knocking off the likes of West Virginia, Xavier and cinderella South Carolina. They delivered. That put the West Coast Conference champs at 37-1 on the season, and one win away from glory.

Unlike the Zags, North Carolina is a powerhouse. Chapel Hill, North Carolina is a basketball town. They love their Tar Heels and there are plenty of reasons why — MJ, James Worthy, Tyler Hansbrough to name a few. Widely known for the long-standing rivalry with nearby Duke University, North Carolina became a household name in college basketball. With 20 Final Four appearances and five NCAA Tournament championships, it’s safe to say Chapel Hill is used to winners.

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North Carolina won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title, but fell to Duke in the ACC Tournament. It was an up-and-down year by their standards, but Roy Williams’ squad has hit their stride at the perfect time. The Tar Heels survived a scare from Arkansas and took down Butler, Kentucky and Oregon on their way to Monday night’s game.

This year’s national championship game means so much to both programs, but for different reasons. For Gonzaga, this is an opportunity to secure their first championship trophy and create their own legacy. North Carolina, on the other hand, is looking to build on their legacy. It’s been eight years since they last won a title, so this could be the one that gets the program back on track. Either way it goes, history will be made in Phoenix.

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