The end is near. The sports world tends to become a bit boring after the College Basketball season comes to a close. March Madness ran its course for the most part, as four extremely talented teams have found their way to the Final Four. Although Nevada can not boast a single victory in the tournament this season, going from a CBI championship to a shot at winning the big dance within just two seasons speaks volumes to the Pack’s improvement as a unit. The four teams that bested the field of 64 go as follows; Gonzaga, South Carolina, University of North Carolina and Oregon. The final four will square off at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on April 1 where trickery will play a factor in every teams’ game plan.
GONZAGA V.S. South Carolina
This game should be a match-up for the ages and a defensive struggle at that. Both Gonzaga and South Carolina rank in the top three as the most efficient defensive teams in the tournament according to CBS Sports. Due to their impressive defensive efforts, it is no surprise as to how these two teams made it this far.
I’m sure Gonzaga and South Carolina are chomping at the bits to take one another on come April 1. These two have a chance to make history for their respective schools as neither university can say they’ve won an NCAA tournament. The ’16-’17 Gamecocks squad led by Sindari Thornwell have already marked their place in the South Carolina history books, being the first Gamecocks unit to make it to a Final Four appearance.
The Bulldogs are seen as heavy favorites in this match-up with the Gamecocks as ESPN has given South Carolina a measly 11 percent chance to win. Although South Carolina is a heavy underdog in this game, it’s safe to say any team can win on any given Sunday. Let’s not forget when the unranked Kansas Jayhawks were a six seed going into the NCAA tournament back in 1988, upsetting arguably one of the most talented Sooners team the nation had seen.
There are a few reasons as to why I do not believe the Gamecocks should be counted out. Let’s take NCAA tournament resumes into consideration before anything. The Gamecocks square off against Marquette for the first round of the NCAA tournament, making mince meat of a Marquette squad that appeared unready for the Big Dance atmosphere. Following their spectacular display of showmanship against Marquette, South Carolina headed into a succession of games where they were expected to lose night after night. Their first test being the Duke Blue Devils. The stats for the two were basically identical, with the Gamecocks making just five more baskets than the Blue Devils, edging out Duke 88-81 to move onto the Sweet 16. By this point, South Carolina had already proven themselves to be a tougher team than some expected. The Gamecocks went on to defeat Baylor by a large margin to advance to the Elite Eight, where they would find themselves in yet another underdog dilemma. The Florida Gators came up next on South Carolina’s hit list. While the game did not start off in the Gamecocks favor, the team came alive in the second half. South Carolina outscored Florida 44-30, shot 52 percent from the field, all the while giving the gators a big ol’ donut in the 3-pointers made category for the second half. The Gamecocks have proven their ability to defeat big-time opponents in a prime-time settings.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are a completely different story. They were expected to make it this far. As a one seed, in reality that team is supposed to have the easiest road to the finals. Gonzaga began their tournament play against South Dakota St. in Salt Lake City, UT. Many NCAA tournament viewers were in dismay when South Dakota State was keeping pace with the Bulldogs during the first half. But as it works in any sport, talent in the depth chart truly begins to show during the second half. This was as true on Mar. 16 for Gonzaga as it would have been any other day as they opened up an utter shellacking of South Dakota State in the second half. Gonzaga then moved on to face-off against the Northwestern Wildcats, in a game that may have been a little too close for comfort. The Wildcats were on a crazy tear during the second half as they trimmed a 22-point deficit to just five with 4:54 left in the game. Even with momentum swinging in the Wildcats favor, Northwestern failed to get a win. The Bulldogs went on to defeat West Virginia in their Sweet 16 game, and eviscerate Xavier during their Elite 8 match-up.
I’m calling for an upset this time around with South Carolina defeating Gonzaga. Both teams produce a similar average point total and both play strong defensive games. I believe the biggest factor that separates the two comes down to the competition level each team has faced during the tournament. The Gamecocks have faced far better teams then Gonzaga, which makes me believe an upset is looming.
OREGON VS UNC
The Oregon Ducks and University of North Carolina Tarheels are each coming off stellar wins. Oregon made Kansas look like an unranked team when they played them on Mar. 25, keeping Kansas at bay for most of the game. I believe Oregon’s success in their game against Kansas came from their attitude heading into it.
“We just gotta come in and be ready like we did last year when we went to Arizona,” said Duck’s sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey. “It’s definitely gonna be a tough road game for us. We’re getting our mentality right for that.”
Dorsey, along with his teammates prepped themselves for an atmosphere that would be both unforgiving and leaning heavily towards their opponents.
However, the Tarheels did not manhandle their Elite Eight opponent like the Ducks did. Their game against Kentucky went down to the wire as UNC’s Luke Maye hit a buzzer beater shot with .3 seconds to go in the game. Maye’s shot electrified the crowd, sending the stadium into a frenzy. This last second, go-ahead basket put the Tarheels in the driver’s seat, as they won the game 75-73. UNC’s ability to out rebound Kentucky played a huge role in their ability to take home this game.
As far as my take on this match-up I believe both teams excel in far different areas, especially in terms of offensive output. Oregon is impressive from the perimeter, and can knock down the three-ball with ease. On the other hand, the Tarheels’ forte comes in the paint as they have impressive size and skill in that area. I’m going to give this game to UNC based on the sole fact that the team who controls the paint usually wins the game.