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2017 Final Four Preview
- Updated: April 1, 2017
2017 Final Four Preview
Final Four Weekend is coming up and there are a few stories behind each and every team that is involved in this year’s Final Four. We will get into each team and how they may approach the national semifinal games.
Gonzaga – Has the “little engine that could” finally turned into a freight train?
Year after year, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have dominated the West Coast Conference and entered the NCAA Tournament with hopes that they will finally get over the hump and reach the Final Four only to be derailed before reaching their expectations. Now in 2017, they have a chance to not only get to the national championship game, but have one of the most impressive seasons in college basketball. They are led by their point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, a transfer from Washington who averages 16 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists per game. He has been named to numerous All-America teams and is in the running for the Wooden Award.
One thing that has been noticeable about this year’s team is its depth in the frontcourt. The combination of Przemek Karnoski, Johnathan Williams, Zach Collins, and Ryan Edwards have been a force in the paint. They are the ones that make it tough for opponents to score, and Gonzaga as a team leads the country in defensive efficiency and is 5th in the country in points allowed per game. With that frontcourt being as dominant as they have been, it gives the Bulldogs a great chance to be this year’s national champion.
South Carolina – Cinderella or not, this team is looking to crash the party
South Carolina had never advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but that didn’t stop Frank Martin and his Gamecock team from believing they could get to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond. They’re now headed to Phoenix with a lot of confidence and a defense that can pretty much stop anyone, including a pretty complete Gonzaga team.
In defeating seeds two, three and four, South Carolina gave up an average of 67 points a game to teams familiar with scoring a lot more than that. At the end of the season, the ‘Cocks limped into the SEC tournament and lost their first game in ugly fashion to Alabama. Many believed their seven seed was somewhat of a gift, but they proceeded to prove their naysayers wrong with a convincing twenty point win over Marquette in the first round.
Although they were 19 – 4 at one point in the season, they only won three of their last nine and I doubt anyone but the staunchest Gamecock supporters believed they could make the kind of run they did, especially in a region with Villanova and Duke.
Can they go all the way?
Absolutely, especially if you believe that Duke is at least as good as anyone left in the field, and they blasted the Blue Devils back to Durham with a scorching second half after trailing by five at the break.
Oregon – The Ducks want to finish the job even while they are not at full strength
At the end of the regular season, there were three teams in the Pac-12 Conference that floated around the top 10 in the country: Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA. At one point, the UCLA Bruins were as high as #2 in the nation while Oregon was as high as #5 before the conference tournaments started. By the time the Pac-12 Tournament was done, Arizona came out as the champion while Oregon had to deal with the loss of Chris Boucher for the rest of the season due to an ACL injury. However, the Ducks were able to pull it together for this run in the NCAA Tournament, led by Dillon Brooks who has been their best player all season and Jordan Bell, who has averaged double-digits in points and rebounds in all but one game in the NCAA Tournament.
Now with this being the team’s first appearance in the national semifinal since 1939, the Ducks are up against North Carolina, who has had spurts of showing that they have been the best team in the country. That may not phase Oregon at first, because they just came off of beating the Kansas Jayhawks who at one point seemed like they were the best. Coach Dana Altman will have a scheme to try and shut down the Tar Heels just like he did against the Jayhawks….it is just a matter of executing that plan to see if they will be able to get to the national championship game.
North Carolina – “Redemption” has been their theme all season…will they be able to attain it?
A year ago, viewers all over the world and those that attended the national championship game in Houston saw the buzzer-beater by Kris Jenkins to give Villanova the title over North Carolina. Now, the Tar Heels are one step closer to getting back to the final and they have been motivated all season to get what eluded them in the final seconds of the title game last year. The ACC regular season champion has had many different players to take the lead in games during the season, ranging from Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks on the inside to Joel Berry II out in the perimeter to Josh Jackson on the wing…even having players like Luke Maye step up in the Elite 8 to get the game winning field goal against Kentucky.
Coach Roy Williams looks to have this team attain their sixth national championship and his third of his coaching career. He wants to surpass the legendary Dean Smith by getting one more national title, and this could be his best opportunity. His team is the most experienced in this atmosphere and have played many games with each other while their semifinal opponent may be at a disadvantage in the paint against this Tar Heel team. It is just a matter of if this year’s team is prepared to finish the job that they set for themselves when this season started in November.