Gonzaga not a big surprise in NCAA Final Four men’s basketball championship game

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski grabs a rebound in front of South Carolina forward Chris Silva, left, during the first half of the Final Four semifinals on Saturday in Glendale, Ariz. (AP photo)


Gonzaga (37-1) vs. North Carolina (32-7), 9:20 p.m.; TV: WJMN-CBS


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Their pedigrees are different, but both teams are loaded with veterans. Both have some heft in the middle.

When Gonzaga meets North Carolina for the NCAA national championship tonight, it could be quite a brawl.

“They’re big just like us and they match up with us pretty well,” North Carolina’s Theo Pinson said. “Their guards are really good. We just got to play the game and execute.”

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams, center, laughs with forward Theo Pinson, left, and forward Kennedy Meeks during a practice session for the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament on Friday in Glendale, Ariz. (AP photo)

The centers are beastly.

Gonzaga brings 7-foot-1, 300-pound Przemek Karnowski. He will have 3 inches and 40 pounds on the Tar Heels’ 6-10, 260-pound Kennedy Meeks, who may have had the best game of his career in Saturday night’s 77-76 win over Oregon.

Meeks matched his career high with 25 points and 14 rebounds, the last to preserve the victory after the last of North Carolina’s four missed free throws in the final 6 seconds.

“Kennedy, I thought, was awesome,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “I thought he controlled everything inside — 25 points, 14 rebounds, 11 of 13 (shooting).”

Karnowski will be a load, as he is with every opponent. He was one of the main reasons that Gonzaga regrouped after blowing a 14-point second half lead to beat South Carolina 77-73.

But the Zags also have 7-foot, 230-pound Zach Collins, whose 3-pointer gave Gonzaga the lead. Collins had 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots to help propel Gonzaga — in its first Final Four — into the title game.

North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the South, will be seeking its sixth national title. Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed in the West, finally has made it after knocking on the door so many times under coach Mark Few.