Bryan Mauro-Contributing Writer (@threecolorbeard)
This has been one of the most exciting tournaments in recent memory. The Final Four should be no different. It all gets started again on Saturday night, and then a champion will be decided on Monday April 3rd. I expect Phoenix to be hopping.
Gonzaga vs. South Carolina: These two schools are both making their first final four appearance. Gonzaga finally getting there after 19 straight years in the tournament. South Carolina made a miracle run to the final four. If defense wins championships then this game should give all us a look into the eyes of the future champions. Gonzaga leads the country in defensive efficiency and doesn’t give up much on that end of the floor. Gonzaga can also score with the best of them. That is why Gonzaga’s margin of victory is so eyepopping. Gonzaga is long, athletic and they run their defense and offense with conviction. They also may be the team with the best coach in this entire tournament. South Carolina has made their miracle run possible with their defense. They have a philosophy on defense of run you off the three point line, and you won’t get into the middle. They make teams take 17 foot jump shots, and usually when that happens you have a nice recipe for success. South Carolina is going to have to muddy up this game if they want to win. They must force Gonzaga to turn the ball over, and take bad shots. Word of Advice: Bet on South Carolina. Even if they don’t win, their defense and Sindarious Thornwell should keep them in this game. I believe this one will go down to the wire.
Prediction: Gonzaga-81 South Carolina-80
Oregon vs North Carolina: Two of the most athletic and skilled teams in this tournament square off, for their right to play for the title. Oregon made the Final Four without their leading big man in Chris Boucher. It actually has hurt their depth, but Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks have helped lead the way. Those two have hit clutch shot after clutch shot the entire tournament. Oregon survived a scare in the Sweet 16 as Michigan missed a three at the buzzer. That game seemed to give them some new life. They absolutely dominated Kansas in the Elite Eight matchup. North Carolina has been one of the best teams all year. They were the runner-up in last year tournament, and I know they want to get the sting of Kris Jenkins buzzer beating three out of their minds and win a title. They have virtually the same team on the court as they had last year. Word of Advice: Don’t count out Oregon. Oregon plays a style of basketball that gives a lot of teams trouble, they like to spread the floor and run up and down. They are filled with shooters, rim protectors, and they can play a zone defense, that will get any offense out of sorts. Just ask Kansas.
Prediction: North Carolina-91 Oregon-82
Players to Watch:
Przemek Karnowski: The Gonzaga big man is a load inside. He is 7’1” and weighs 304 pounds. If South Carolina lets him into the paint it could be a long night for them. Karnowski can score, he anchors this defense, protects the rim, and doesn’t foul. He will be able to neutralize the front court for South Carolina which has been so good in this tournament. That is one matchup to watch.
PJ Dozier: You were probably expecting me to say Sindarious Thornwell is the player to watch for South Carolina, right? Well Sindarious Thornwell is the best player, that before this tournament only the avid basketball fan had ever heard of. PJ Dozier is his wingman. These two together can take teams down by themselves. Dozier is so critical to the success of the South Carolina and what they are trying to do. Why? Teams are trying to take Sindarious Thornwell out of games, few have succeeded but he draws a crowd on defense. Dozier is a good shooter, he gets to the rim, and shines at the key moment when Sindarious has not done much for a few possessions.
Jordan Bell: There are so many players on this Ducks squad who can beat you. I have already talked about Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks in previous tournament write-ups. Jordan Bell is one of the main reasons Oregon has been able to survive until this round of the tournament. Jordan Bell is not the flashiest player but boy can he protect the rim and rebound the basketball. He also plays high level defense, He was a monster against Kansas. If he continues his play in the Final Four, the North Carolina big men may have some trouble. If that is the case it will bode very well for Oregon’s chances at a Championship game appearance.
Theo Pinson: When looking at the stat sheet, Theo Pinson will probably never be the leading scorer, leading rebounder, or even lead the team in assists. What he does bring is stability to the defensive end of the floor for Roy Williams bunch. The Tar Heels rely on Theo Pinson to take the best player on the other team completely out of the game. When they played Kentucky he had the task of keeping Malik Monk in check he did that, and held Monk to one of his lowest point totals of the season. Without Pinson and his ability to handle the ball and make a great pass to Luke Maye, North Carolina may not even be here. Theo Pinson does not do many great things, he does many things well and is a pest on defense. Should be a fun matchup between him and Tyler Dorsey.
North Carolina gets the monkey off their back and win the title. This team has many weapons and too much experience for the rest of the field. Gonzaga will give them a game, but in the end the best overall team in my eyes at the start of the tournament, is the team walking away with the Hardware at the end of the tournament.