The 2017 NCAA tournament has not had quite as many upsets as in recent years, but despite that fact there are 2 teams making their Final Four debut and another returning for the first time since the inaugural tournament in 1939. Two one seeds remain in the Final Four in North Carolina and Gonzaga, while Oregon represents the Pac-12 as a 3 seed and South Carolina comes out of nowhere as a 7 seed. There will be plenty of storylines heading into this Final Four. Can UNC redeem themselves after coming up seconds short last year? Can Gonzaga finally quiet the haters who say they play in a weak conference? Will Oregon bring the trophy back to the Pac 12? Will South Carolina become one of the most unlikely champions in recent memory? It will all be decided in Phoenix this Saturday and Monday night.
Saturday, April 1st at 6:09 PM: #7 South Carolina vs. #1 Gonzaga (-7)
The South Carolina Gamecocks are easily the most unexpected participant in this year’s Final Four. They are led by veteran coach Frank Martin and SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell, who is averaging 26 points per game in the NCAA tournament. The Gamecocks have used their defense to knock off #10 Marquette, #2 Duke, #3 Baylor, and #4 Florida en route to winning the East regional. On the other hand, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have been dominant all season long, losing just one game the entire season during their path to the Final Four. Long time Gonzaga coach Mark Few and star big man Karnowski defeated #16 South Dakota State, #8 Northwestern, #4 West Virginia, and #11 Xavier to win the West regional and their first ever berth in the Final Four. Both of these teams have a solid defense, but ultimately Gonzaga is much more well-rounded and one of the best teams in the entire country. The Bulldogs end South Carolina’s Cinderella run 78-64.
Saturday, April 1st at 8:49 PM: #3 Oregon vs. #1 North Carolina (-5)
The North Carolina Tar Heels are easily the veteran squad of the four teams left. Roy Williams, Justin Jackson, Joel Berry, Kennedy Meeks, and Theo Pinson lead a veteran Tar Heel team to the Final Four for the second consecutive year looking to finish the job they came just short of last year against Villanova in the championship game. North Carolina’s biggest strength is offensive rebounding while one of their key weaknesses is three point shooting. The health of Theo Pinson, who rolled his ankle against Kentucky, will be a key factor in this game depending on how effective he is. UNC defeated #16 Texas Southern, #8 Arkansas, #4 Butler, and #2 Kentucky to win the South Regional and earn a trip to Phoenix. Although many people liked UCLA or Arizona as the most likely Pac 12 team to make the Final Four, coach Dana Altman’s Oregon Ducks are the ones who have the chance to win it all. The trio of Tyler Dorsey, Jordan Bell, and Dillon Brooks have been sensational during Oregon’s tournament run. Oregon defeated #14 Iona, #11 Rhode Island, #7 Michigan, and #1 Kansas to win the Midwest regional. Despite last year’s Final Four experience and a thirst to win it all this year, I think North Carolina will fall to the hot team right now. Oregon carries it’s momentum to the championship game 85-81.
CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTION: GONZAGA 76, OREGON 69
Let me know your predictions in the comments down below.