The Latest: Vocal crowds in pregame of national title game

Final Four Gonzaga North Carolina Basketball
North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks warms up before the championship game of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against Gonzaga, Monday, April 3, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP)(STL.News) — The Latest on the championship game of the NCAA Championship Tournament between North Carolina and Gonzaga (all times local):

6 p.m.

North Carolina and Gonzaga took the court for pregame warmups to boisterous cheers from their fan sections in the minutes leading up to the national championship game.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams walked onto the court casually chatting with a security guard before shaking hands with fans in the student section. Several minutes later, the Gonzaga team ran through the same tunnel to loud cheers from the Bulldogs fans.

Tar Heels players slapped hands with people on sidelines as they warmed up while Gonzaga fans waved signs proclaiming “Witness History.” North Carolina fans held up signs boasting of the school’s five NCAA national championships in men’s basketball.

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5:15 p.m.

The betting public is supporting Gonzaga, but the sharps in Las Vegas appear to be backing North Carolina to win the NCAA title.

Wagering trends released by William Hill US on Monday night show that 64 percent of the bets on the money line wager are backing Gonzaga to win the NCAA Tournament. But 78 percent of the amount of money wagered on the bet is backing the Tar Heels, meaning North Carolina is getting fewer but more substantial bets.

William Hill operates more than 100 sports books in Nevada.

The money line is at plus-100 for Gonzaga, meaning a win pays at even money. North Carolina is at minus-120, meaning a bettor would need to wager $120 to win $100.

The shift is slight but meaningful in games where the spread is close — North Carolina is favored by 1 point and that means some gamblers who want to back Gonzaga might prefer to just take slightly better money line odds.

Gonzaga accounts for about 55 percent of the money wagered and tickets on the spread.

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3:55 p.m.

About one-fourth of those who filled out brackets on ESPN and Yahoo still have a chance to correctly call the March Madness champion.

About 15 percent of bracketeers on ESPN and 17 percent on ESPN picked North Carolina to win the title before the tournament started, making the Tar Heels the most popular selection for champion in the 68-team field.

Gonzaga is the fifth most popular pick on both platforms as a champ on about 9 percent of brackets.

More popular as title picks than Gonzaga: Villanova, Kansas and Duke.

Not bad for a tournament that wrecked brackets all over the field, especially in the East region where No. 7 seed South Carolina made the Final Four. Far fewer than 1 percent of brackets predicted the Gamecocks to go that far.

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3:30 p.m.

Two of the top teams coming into March Madness are set to settle the title in the 67th game of the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina and Gonzaga play Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. Tipoff is set for about 6:20 p.m. local time, 9:20 p.m. EDT.

The final pits two of the most elite teams in college hoops against one another: both the Tar Heels and the Bulldogs boast top-level coaches, guards and interior players.

Down low, Gonzaga’s 7-foot-1, 300-pound Przemek Karnowski faces North Carolina’s 6-10, 260-pound Kennedy Meeks. Meeks had a career game in the Final Four against Oregon with 25 points. Gonzaga also has Zach Collins, a 7-foot freshman who could be a one-and-done player.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams is chasing a third title is his fourth championship game. Gonzaga coach Mark Few had never made the Final Four before this season, but has taken the Zags in all 18 years he’s led.

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For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

 

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