South Carolina (26-10) vs Gonzaga (36-1)
When: Saturday, April 1st 2017
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Time: 6:09 ET | TV: CBS
Two first-time Final Four participants will battle it out on Saturday evening as the South Carolina Gamecocks face the Gonzaga Bulldogs for the right to play in Monday’s National Title game against either Oregon or North Carolina. The Gamecocks run has been a little more improbable as the seventh-seeded team from the SEC struggled toward the end of the regular season. South Carolina’s superb run has been fueled by star senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, who missed Thursday’s practice with an illness, but is expected to be ready Saturday. Thornwell averages 21.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the East Regional after averaging 25.8 points in the Gamecocks’ four tourney wins, including 26 points in the 77-70 victory over Florida in the regional final. Sophomore guard PJ Dozier (13.8 points) and senior guard Duane Notice (10.2, 67 made 3-pointers) are the shooters while sophomore forward Chris Silva (10.1 points, 5.9 rebounds) is the Gamecocks’ top inside player. South Carolina’s strength is it’s defense, which allows 64.9 points per game and limited third-seeded Baylor to 50 in a 20-point triumph in the Sweet 16.
Gonzaga’s season has been perfect, with the exception of a season-ending loss to BYU prior to running through the WCC Tournament and into a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. Gonzaga no longer will have to hear about never reaching the Final Four and head coach Mark Few finally got that monkey off his back. Few, who was just named Coach of the Year on Thursday, was the winningest tournament coach ever (25-17), not to have reached the national semis. Junior point guard Nigel-Williams Goss (16.7 average, 4.6 assists) has been key to the entire season and scored 23 points in the 83-59 rout of Xavier in the Elite Eight matchup. Williams-Goss, a standout defender with a team-best 64 steals, is averaging 15.5 points in the NCAA Tournament but is just 19-of-61 shooting from the field. Senior center Przemek Karnowski (12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds), shooting guard Jordan Mathews (10.7 points, 79 3-pointers) and junior power forward Johnathan Williams (10.3 points, team-leading 6.6 rebounds) also score in double digits. The Bulldogs are allowing an average of 59 points in the tournament and have limited three opponents under 60 points.
Defense is what runs this South Carolina team, but the offense has been extremely inconsistent all season, until they hit this tournament. They will give Gonzaga shooters fits like they did with Florida last time out, so getting Karnowski and Zach Collins involved and out of foul trouble is a must for the Zags. I don’t see the Gamecocks staying hot with their outside shooting, but this game will be low scoring enough for South Carolina to cover the spread.
Pick: South Carolina +7
HEAD TO HEAD
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