So Whom Do You Like and Why: The Final Four

Everyone has a story to tell and those around the block love this one…. whom do you like for the final four?

Look at South Carolina, which hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 1973, is the most . The Gamecocks stunned Duke, Baylor and Florida to get to their first Final Four. Also in its first Final Four (and our editor’s favorite) is little engine that could-turned No. 1 seed Gonzaga, which was a few possessions away from reaching the Final Four as a Cinderella in 1999 and then there’s another team that so many counted out after one of its best player’s, Chris Boucher, was lost for the season with an ACL injury. But Oregon has played as well as any team in the tournament and silenced — — two of the hottest teams in Michigan and Kansas. And, of course, North Carolina, on a last year on a buzzer-beater by Villanova’s Kris Jenkins. To say the Tar Heels have unfinished business would be an understatement.

Some say that Gonzaga is favored against South Carolina, and Oregon is an underdog against North Carolina. The key will be for coach Dana Altman to use an array of defenses like he did against Michigan and Kansas. And as much as the loss of Boucher (Chris Boucher, was lost for the season with an ACL injury) could be fully felt against a UNC team that led the nation in rebounding, Jordan Bell (11 points, 13 boards and eight blocks against Kansas) has been a key. That and Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey have been matchup nightmares. If they are on their A-game against the Tar Heels, there’s no reason to count them out.

In a fight against fourth-seeded West Virginia, Gonzaga showed it had the defensive fortitude to play championship basketball. Against Xavier, the offense finally arrived. Mark Few’s team has lost but once — to BYU in the regular season — and the reason it won 36 games is because it is exceptional on defense and has plenty of offensive weapons.

Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss and 7-footer Przemek Karnowski key the inside-out game, but it’s the other players such as freshman 7-footer Zach Collins and sophomore guard Josh Perkins who help this team go. For the naysayers out there who are still skeptical of Gonzaga, they’ll point to an easier path to the Final Four than most, considering the Bulldogs played a No. 16 seed, No. 8 seed and No. 11 seed to get there. But Gonzaga is used to proving doubters wrong, and it seems as though the skepticism has only refueled the mid-major’s identity. An underdog No. 1 seed? The Bulldogs shouldn’t be, but they’re playing like it in March.

For South Carolina Thornwell has been the best player in this year’s tournament, averaging 26 points and 7.5 rebounds and carrying South Carolina to the Dance. The Gamecocks’ defense will keep them in the game. Thornwell imposed his will on teams Duke, Baylor and Florida, but Gonzaga will use a collective defensive effort to cool down the Big Dance’s biggest star.

The Hero’s

According to Scott Gleeson of USA today….

  • North Carolina’s Luke Maye: Maye, a 6-8 sophomore reserve who averages 5.5 points a game had 17 points against Kentucky, including the game-winning bucket. Before that, he had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Butler.
  • Oregon’s Jordan Bell: Bell has been instrumental in getting Oregon to the Final Four after the Ducks lost Boucher to inury. Although it will be hard to one-up his performance against Kansas, which included eight game-changing blocks, his play against UNC will be crucial.
  • Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams: The Missouri transfer was huge in the win against Xavier. He had 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. At 6-9, the versatile forward presents matchup problems with his range and ability to stretch the floor.
  • South Carolina’s Chris Silva: The 6-9 sophomore has been on a tear, with 17 points and 10 rebounds against Duke and 13 points and nine boards against Florida. If the Gamecocks’ magic continues, Silva will be a vital part.
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