NCAA March Madness: Final Four Preview

#1 UNC, #1 Gonzaga, #3 Oregon, and #7 South Carolina are your 2017 NCAA Final Four. Who will advance to the NCAA championship? The Fourth String team previews tonight’s games before the action tips off.

#1 Gonzaga vs #7 South Carolina

6:09 PM on CBS
Gonzaga -6.5 | Gonzaga 69%

The first match of the night is a bit of a mismatch, both statistically and seed-wise. Gonzaga’s offense is well-rounded and versatile, especially when using mammoth Senior Polish Center Przemek Karnowski in the paint. Junior Guard Nigel Williams-Goss has also stood out this tournament, scoring 20 points against #8 Northwestern and 23 against #11 Xavier. Junior Forward Johnathan Williams has been putting on pressure on the boards and inside the arc, scoring 19 points with 8 rebounds in Gonzaga’s game against Xavier. The Bulldogs have also proved their defensive efficiency this tournament, as they managed to win a defensive battle against #4 West Virginia and kept Xavier under 60 points. Considering this team had only lost one game so far this season (against Brigham Young University, who did not make the tournament), and their tournament performances so far it shouldn’t be surprised that they’re so heavily favored.

#7 South Carolina shouldn’t throw in the towel yet though. Senior Guard and South Carolina star Sindarius Thornwell is battling a flu but will still play in tonight’s game (I imagine nothing short of a broken bone could keep him off the court). Thornwell has carried his team throughout this tournament, averaging 25.75 PPG and 7.5 boards per game, and he will need an MJ-esque flu game to carry South Carolina again. Sophomore Guard PJ Dozier has also been performing great this tournament, averaging 15.25 PPG and posting 17 in the Gamecocks’ game against #4 Florida. South Carolina also has the #2 defense in the nation, which has allowed them to compete with some of the toughest teams in the tournament. South Carolina has already upset #4 Florida, #3 Baylor, and #2 Duke, so what’s stopping them from beating the odds again?

#1 UNC vs #3 Oregon

8:49 PM on CBS
UNC -4.5 | UNC 52%

The second game of the night pits #1 UNC against #3 Oregon, and pits two of the tournaments powerhouse teams against each other. Junior UNC Guard Joel Berry II has been battling sprains in both of his ankles , but still managed to score 11 points in UNC’s win over #2 Kentucky. Junior Forward Justin Jackson has stepped up to compensate for Berry’s injury, scoring 19 points in the win over Kentucky and 24 points against #4 Butler. UNC also runs one of the faster offenses in the tournament, while the #3 Oregon Ducks struggled against #1 Kentucky’s transition plays in their game. However, the Tar Heels have not had the accuracy they displayed in the regular season, shooting only 32% from beyond the arc in the tournament. The blame for this may fall somewhat on Berry, who went through a shooting slump before spraining both his ankles. The Tar Heels will need Berry to return to previous speed and accuracy if they want to push past Oregon.

The #3 Oregon Ducks have had injury problems of their own, losing Senior Forward Chris Boucher to a knee injury in the PAC-12 tournament. Since then, Sophomore Guard Tyler Dorsey has been red-hot, scoring 20 points in every tournament game he’s played so far and dropping 27 on #1 Kansas. Junior Forward Dillon Brooks has also stepped up in Boucher’s absence, scoring 17 points with 5 boards against Kansas. The Ducks also play a very different brand of basketball than UNC, as Oregon often decides slow down the pace and run pick and rolls or set plays instead of scoring in transition. On defense, the Ducks also work to slow the game down, as the Duck’s have held opponents to the 14th-longest average possession time of any tournament team. In short, the speed of the game will likely determine who is in control, as a fast game is very beneficial to UNC while a slow one is more Oregon’s style. Either way, this should be an intense and competitive game through and through.

 

-Joseph Politano

The 4th String team

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