The 2017 NCAA Tournament has reached its boiling point – the Final Four. This time, it’ll have prime time veterans North Carolina facing off against Oregon, while both Gonzaga and South Carolina will fill the first semi final with contrasting styles and most importantly, fans who have never seen their teams make it this far before.
Oregon vs North Carolina
The winner of the second semifinal is probably going to be the one lauded as the favorite in the championship game. On one hand, the Ducks, a team on the rise over the last few years thanks to the university finally investing in the program (or Nike turning their attention to it), which has brought better… well, everything. They have the best 1-2 punch in the tournament that is Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks. Dorsey has been the hotter man in the tournament, but his work makes way for Brooks.
The key player for Oregon, something the Tar Heels have spoken openly, is Jordan Bell. He’s their only solid perimeter defender, and has avoided foul trouble so far in the tournament. Joel Berry, who is dealing with two ankle injuries but will play against the Ducks, has said he intends to take the game to Bell and try to get him in foul trouble. The Ducks aren’t an outstanding defensive team, but athletic enough to help Bell avoid getting in trouble.
The Tar Heels seem to have the right recipe to go all the way. An experienced team with most of their key players having gone down this road before last season. They have bigs who can crash the boards and protect the rim (As Kentucky found out in the Elite Eight), but the players who make the real are Berry (14.6 points per game) and Justin Jackson, maybe the best player in college basketball (even if Frank Mason won the award), and someone who can really take over this game and give UNC the ticket to the final.
South Carolina vs Gonzaga
The Zags have never gotten this far, but with a team packed with size and strong defense, they seem to have the right kind of combination to win it all. The Gamecocks are a much less likely opponent for them at this stage, considering they shoot poorly from 3, don’t make free throws and are undersized against most of their rivals. However, they have a very special player in Sindarius Thornwell and the kind of press defense that gives teams a lot of trouble.
Gonzaga had a lot of trouble with the way West Virginia defend earlier in the tournament, and South Carolina are expected to give them the same issues. But perhaps more than the stifling defense, it’ll be Gonzaga’s ability to handle the players helping Thornwell. P.J. Dozier and Chris Silva have been his aids in taking South Carolina further than ever before, and their point production might make a bigger difference.
Both teams are quite problematic from the line, so it’ll be interesting to see if the game develops in a way that it’s decided from there. Gonzaga’s size should give them the kind of edge South Carolina won’t be able to cope with, but they’ve handled so many different disadvantages on their way to the program’s first Final Four, it’s easy to believe they’ll find an answer to these problems too.