March Madness 2017 NCAA Final Four Preview: South Carolina v Gonzaga, Oregon v North Carolina


Gonzaga v South Carolina | Sunday, April 2, 8.09am (AEDT), University of Phoenix Stadium, Arizona

WCC champions Gonzaga are in the Final Four for the first time and only a 7th seeded underdog stands in their way of making it to the Championship game.

The Bulldogs, who went 36-1 in the regular season, won’t get a better opportunity to make the Championship decider after disposing of No.16 South Dakota State (66-46), No.8 Northwestern (79-73), No.4 West Virginia (61-58) and No.11 Xavier (83-59), en route to the Final Four.

Giant-killers South Carolina will have something to say about that and the lowest seed left in the tournament are primed to capture another scalp.

The surprising Gamecocks finished the regular SEC season with a whimper, losing six of nine but have turned things around in the NCAA Tournament to win four straight against No.1 Marquette (93-73), No.1 Duke (88-81), No.3 Baylor (70-50) and No.4 Florida (77-70). 

KEY PLAYERS

Prolific scoring guard Sindarius Thornwell (pictured above) has been front and centre of the Gamecocks’ revival and the senior guard is averaging 21.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 2.8 APG.

Thornwell is the Gamecocks’ leading scorer and SEC player of the year.

The Zags have threats on both the frontline and backcourt with big man Przemek Karnowski (pictured below) dominating the paint and Wooden Award All-American Team nominee Nigel Williams-Goss leading the way from the backcourt.

The Bulldogs guard is playing at a high level averaging 16.7 PPG and 4.6 APG.

The Verdict

The Gamecocks' cinderella run has shown no signs of abating but an untimely ‘bug’ which has floored Thornwell could be catastrophic to their chances of progressing to the Championship Final.

The South Carolina guard has been sick and missed Friday’s (AEDT) practice and while the Gamecocks’ star is expected to take his place on Sunday, it’s a body blow to their chances to have their star player under the weather just before their Final Four showdown.

The Zags have no such worries, and they’ll be the first team through to the Championship final. 

Unibet Odds: Gonzaga 1.32 South Carolina 3.50

Tip: Gonzaga 

Line tip: South Carolina +6.5 (1.94) 

Oregon v North Carolina | Saturday, April 1, 10.49am (AEDT), University of Phoenix Stadium, Arizona

They might be a no.3 seed, but the Oregon Ducks weren’t expected to make it to the Final Four without injured forward Chris Boucher.

Undermanned, the Ducks have proven their doubters wrong and are now just one win away from making the Championship Final.

The Pac-12 Tournament finalists are coming off their biggest performance of the tournament where they eliminated the no.1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks 74-60.

Their previous tourney wins were over No.14 Iona (93-77), No.11 Rhode Island (75-72) and No.7 Michigan (69-68). 

Haunted by last year’s Championship Final’s defeat to Villanova, ACC regular season champions North Carolina are looking for redemption as they embark on another Final Four campaign.

The Tar Heels are riding a wave of momentum after a 75-73 win over No.2 Kentucky following wins over No.16 Texas Southern (103-64), No.8 Arkansas (72-65) and No.4 Butler (92-80). 

KEY PLAYERS

Without Boucher, the Ducks will again look to guard Tyler Dorsey and forward Dillon Brooks with the pair logging 27 points and 17 points respectively in the Ducks' 14-point triumph over Kansas.

Tar Heels forward Josh Jackson, averaging 18.2 PPG paces the Tar Heels offence and the Ducks will need to mark him closely.

The Verdict

A huge battle on the boards is on the cards with the Ducks going head-to-head with the nation’s leading rebounding team in the Tar Heels.

Paced by Kennedy Meeks (pictured above) who averages 9.3 RPG, the Tar Heels rebound 41 per cent of their missed shots.

A lot of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Ducks forward Jordan Bell who pulled down 13 boards against the Jayhawks.  

With their superior rebounding, it's  hard to go past the Tar Heels and if there was ever a game the Ducks would miss their injured forward, it will be this one. 

Unibet Odds: Oregon 2.80 North Carolina 1.45

Tip: North Carolina

Line tip: Oregon +4.5 (1.98) 

Outrights:

Tip: North Carolina 2.35

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