The Final Four features two stellar defensive teams in the first game and two more offensively inclined teams in the second though one of those teams in the second game plays some good defense as well. Gonzaga vs. South Carolina in game one and Oregon vs North Carolina in game 2 at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Here's a look at the matchups along with forecasts for who wins.
South Carolina (26-10) vs. Gonzaga (36-1)
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona (72,200)
5:09 PM CT/6:09 PM ET
Gonzaga allows 60.9 ppg and is the best team in the country at allowing the least points per 100 possessions per game. South Carolina is 2nd best in the country in that category. Both teams are tough mentally and physically, good offensively when they need to be, and relentless. Love the coaching matchup with the cerebral yet intense Mark Few versus the highly intelligent and ultra intense Frank Martin. Super coaching duel. Gonzaga has awesome guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who is a solid outside 3 point shooter, and can drive and score or score in transition. He's a superb athlete. Guard Jordan Mathews is a shooting machine from deep. Przemek Karnowski (7'1", 300) and Zach Collins (7'0") are stellar twin towers for the Zags. Johnathan Williams, 6'9",228, is a highly athletic, tough rebounder and solid scorer. This team is for real.
South Carolina is led by superb guard Sindarius Thornwell, 6'5", 211, a 20+ point scorer on a consistent basis. P.J. Dozier is another bigger guard, at 6'6", 205, who can score outside and inside, and both can really defend. Duane Notice, a 6'2", 225 guard, is a scorer and another stellar defender. The inside game is manned by 6'9", 223 pound Chris Silva, and valuable 6'10", 245 Maik Kotsar from Estonia, somewhere near Russia. So this Gamecock team has outstanding players and their run through this tournament with victories over Duke, a smashing win over Baylor and an Elite Eight victory over a very good Florida team has been spectacular.
This is kind of the underrated matchup of the 2 games because of North Carolina's marquee name, but it's just as good a game. South Carolina is a phenomenal story. The Gamecocks were excellent in the SEC regular season, then hit a rut there at the end, but really recaptured their excellence in the postseason. I like South Carolina to really play well here. But Gonzaga is an amazing story too, and I really like their coach, Few. He's superb. I'm looking for a really close, more defensive-oriented game, with the Zags squeaking it out at the end.
Gonzaga 65, South Carolina 61
Oregon (33-5) vs. North Carolina (31-7)
7:49 PM CT/8:49 PM ET
Roy Williams portrays himself as this folksy, Southern boy kind of guy, but it doesn't seem real. He's not the best coach in this Final Four. Mark Few is and Frank Martin is next. Williams is the third best. But he's won 2 national championships at UNC, which is very impressive. He won in 2005 and 2009, but when you have a roster full of McDonald's All Americans, that can really help your cause. Williams has that superb size and length up front in Kennedy Meeks (6'10", 260), Isaiah Hicks (6'9" 242), and a guy I would say is the best player in the country, Justin Jackson, who is 6'8", 210, and a likely top 5 NBA draft pick. He's a junior and better than the freshman who played this year, though De'Aaron Fox is one heckuva player at Kentucky. Joel Jackson is outstanding at point guard. Luke Maye is a superior 6th man, who is highly clutch, as his 18 footer to win the game at the buzzer against Kentucky last Sunday, 75-73, attests to.
But Oregon has 3 prolific players as well. Six-foot-seven, 225 forward Dillon Brooks is a world class athlete and super clutch shooter along with being a fantastic defender. Six foot-four, 195 pound guard Tyler Dorsey is highly reliable from deep, like Brooks, and another world class athlete. Six-foot-nine, 225 pound center Jordan Bell posted 11 points, 13 boards and 8 blocks in a 74-60 Elite 8 victory over No.1 seed Kansas in the Midwest Region in a game which Oregon pretty much had control of throughout. They dominated because Bell was such an enforcer in the middle, and Dorsey poured in 27 points with Brooks adding 17. This team is the real deal on offense and defense. They miss some shots, but they are excellent on the offensive glass and seem to make shots when they really matter, particularly Brooks and Dorsey.
This one is going to be one heckuva battle. I love what Oregon has done in the postseason. Beating Kansas was a real statement game. Carolina is the most talented team offensively in this tournament as they average 85 points per game, but Oregon holds teams to 65 points per game. Carolina has that length, but Oregon has so much toughness and heart that I'm going with the upset here.
Oregon 74, UNC 70