Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Blue Skies! North Carolina Earns Redemption, 6th National Championship

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, April 3, 2017

North Carolina 71 Gonzaga 66

It wasn't pretty, but after 40 minutes of helter-skelter basketball, 44 fouls, 52 free throws, and 76 missed shots from the field, the North Carolina Tar Heels did what they came to do: redeem themselves for last year's last-second loss in the championship game to Villanova.

For some time during what had to be one of the more intense physical and defensive struggles of Final Four fare ever, there was doubt that North Carolina would win their sixth national championship. Gonzaga was tough, determined, and equally aware of the task at hand. In the end the game was decided by the play of a couple of upperclassmen - senior forward Isaiah Hicks and junior guard Joel Berry II - turning adversity into opportunity late in the second half that led the Tar Heels to basketball's promised land with a 71-65 triumph and a National Championship trophy.

In the first half, while North Carolina was shooting at a sub-30% rate, Gonzaga forged as much as a seven-point lead, which turned out to be the largest of the contest. When the teams broke for halftime, the Bulldogs led, 35-32, an advantage that was quickly erased as the Tar Heels went on an 8-0 tear to open the second half. In addition to two Justin Jackson free throws, Berry made a steal on the opening inbound play, tossed in a breakout layup, fed Kennedy Meeks for another score and hit a short jumper with just 2:20 gone in the period.

As had been the case throughout the tournament for the Tar Heels, they could not keep their advantage for long. Over the next minute and nine seconds, the Bulldogs regained the lead, 41-40 on a Zach Collins jumper and subsequent free throw and a three-pointer from Jordan Mathews.

From there until the final two minutes of the game, neither team could consider themselves safe, as the lead changed hands and the scored tied multiple times.

With 1:55 remaining, Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss put the Zags up 65-63, but Jackson tied the game and put the Tar Hells ahead 66-65 with a layup plus one on a foul. Following a Gonzaga timeout, Hicks came up big, hitting a short runner in the lane for a 68-65 edge with 27 seconds left. On Gonzaga's ensuing possession, Kennedy Meeks blocked a shot from Williams Goss and Berry recovered the ball, feeding a streaking Justin Jackson for an emphatic slam dunk which sealed the deal. Berry, who had 21 points and was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, capped off his 22-point night with a final free throw.

Berry made four three-pointers, had three rebounds, a steal, and six assists.

The victory pushed the North Carolina basketball program into even more elite status. It's six national championships are the third most by any school, behind UCLA's 11 and 8 by Kentucky. The Tar Heels broke a tie with Duke and Indiana, both claiming five national titles.

Carolina head coach Roy Williams upped his status as well, winning his third national championship, all with the Tar Heels. Adding to his wins in 2005 and 2009, Williams joins Jim Calhoun (Connecticut) and Bobby Knight (Indiana). Ahead of them are Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Kansas' Adolph Rupp with four. UCLA's legendary "Wizard of Westwood," John Wooden, led the Bruins to 10 national titles over a 12-year span.

Thus, the 2016-17 men's college basketball season comes to an abrupt close. College Basketball Daily will return again this fall to bring readers more coverage of the great sport and of course, the player of the day throughout the 2017-18 season.

Until then, keep your laces loose and practice your free throws,

Fearless Rick,
Publisher

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard
FINAL: Through Monday (4/3) Games
Conference (# of teams) Record Winners (# of Wins)
ACC (9) 11-8 Notre Dame (1), Florida St. (1), Virginia (1), Louisville (1), Duke (1), North Carolina (6)
Big East (7) 6-7 Villanova (1), Butler (2), Xavier (3)
Big Ten (7) 8-7 Purdue (2), Wisconsin (2), Northwestern (1), Michigan (2), Michigan State (1)
Big 12 (6) 9-6 Kansas State (1), West Virginia (2), Iowa St. (1), Kansas (3), Baylor (2)
SEC (5) 11-5* Florida (3), Arkansas (1), Kentucky (3), South Carolina (4)
PAC 12 (4) 10-4 USC (2), Arizona (2), Oregon (4), UCLA (2)
Atlantic 10 (3) 1-3 Rhode Island (1)
American (2) 1-2 Cincinnati (1)
West Coast (2) 6-2 Gonzaga (5), St. Mary's (1)
All Others (23) (4-23) Mt. St. Mary's (1), UC Davis (1), Middle Tennessee (1), Wichita State (1)

*One SEC loss and one SEC win occurred in the East Regional Final, South Carolina 77, Florida 70

Monday, April 03, 2017

NCAA Tournament Final Preview: Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

Bulldogs vs. Tar Heels For All The Marbles, 9:20 pm ET, CBS

Is this not how it should be? Number one seed from the West, Gonzaga, meets #1 from the South (should have been East), North Carolina. First-timer vs. thoroughbred, a team that's never been to a Final Four, much less a championship game, will be facing a team that's been to 20 Final Fours and has won the national championship five times (1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009). Roy Williams, head coach of North Carolina, is seeking his third national championship, which would tie him with Jim Calhoun and Bobby Knight (John Wooden won 10, Mike Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp each won four). Mark Few, who, for 18 years, has labored diligently as the head coach of the Gonzaga Bulldogs - and built an impressive, successful program - has never won a national title.

So, who's got the goods? Spoiler alert: College Basketball Daily isn't making a pick. Since we have no dog in this fight (and we almost never do), there's no point in jading this column into being something it's not. Let's throw out some numbers and observations and enjoy what should be an exceptional exclamation point to another college basketball season.

For those of you with a gambling problem, who just have to make a wager, good luck. North Carolina is a one-point favorite, meaning, as expected, it's just about impossible to predict a winner. The over/under number comes in at a robust 155, seeking a game that ends up something like 80-75, which should be about enough scoring for anybody.

A quick recap of the path to the championship is in order, but one condition sums up why this match-up may be entirely too close to call: the total margin of victory for the five tournament games is North Carolina, 57; Gonzaga, 57. That's right. Both teams have won five games by the same total number of points.

On Saturday, the Tar Heels managed to slip past an aggressive and determined Oregon squad by missing four straight free throws at the end of the game, securing a 77-76 win.

Surely, that was not the Tar Heels' desired strategy, but, as it worked out, the object lesson is that North Carolina led the nation in rebounding during the regular season and, apparently, no team does it better, or, at more opportune times.

For Gonzaga, Saturday afternoon in Phoenix was no vacation. Facing the South Carolina Gamecocks, the #7 seed from the East region, the Bulldogs built a second half, 14-point lead, only to see it evaporate in the span of four minutes, putting the Gamecocks up by two with just over seven minutes to play. Seconds later, Zach Collins notched a three-pointer, Gonzaga began building their lead again and never game it up, eventually coming away with the 77-73 victory.

A few key takeaways from the semi-final games:
  • Both Gonzaga and North Carolina faced teams with solid, if not special defenses, however...
  • North Carolina was outshot by Oregon, 36.8% to 37.9%
  • Gonzaga shot 48.3% to South Carolina's 37.9%
  • Oregon tied North Carolina with 43 rebounds
  • Gonzaga had 41 rebounds; South Carolina, 36
  • Gonzaga hit 9 of 19 three-pointers; North Carolina made 8 of 21 vs. the Ducks
  • North Carolina's bench scored just 9 points; Gonzaga's scored 22
  • Of course, the Tar Heels won by one point; Gonzaga won by four

With those figures in perspective, and, in case you didn't see the games (how could you miss them?), North Carolina didn't pass the eye test. They looked, especially in the first ten minutes of the first half, disorganized, unconnected, and uninspired. They appeared to be playing without any emotion. However, they looked the same way at the end of the game - emotionless - so maybe that's just their look.

But, if you saw both games, the Zags looked much the sharper. Additionally, a couple of key players stood out. For the Tar Heels, Joel Berry II appeared nearly hobbled throughout. There's been much said about his sore ankles, and they showed up in the game against Oregon. Still, Berry played 35 minutes, In that time, he scored 11 points on 2-for-14 shooting. If Berry is actually hurting (and there's nothing to say that he isn't), Theo Pinson, and especially, Nate Britt, are going to get many more minutes.

The other player that one couldn't help but notice was struggling was North Carolina forward Isaiah Hicks, who appeared to be completely lost on offense and ineffective on defense. Hicks played 20 minutes, scoring 2 points on 1-for-12 shooting and had a mere three rebounds.

Maybe Hicks just had a bad game, and maybe Berry will feel better before tonight's tip-off. In any case, coach Williams will make an accurate assessment of both situations and make the needed adjustments. So too, Mark Few, a zealot for detail and preparedness.

For Gonzaga, point guard Josh Perkins played 22 minutes and had two points, but, he only hoisted up two shots, both threes and both misses. He had just one assist and fouled out. He was a non-factor, even though he's not generally a key to the Bulldog scoring.

On the other hand, seven-foot freshman Zach Collins had 14 points and 13 rebounds in 23 minutes, really stepping up his game.

North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks scored 25 points and had 13 rebounds. Without him, the Tar Heels would have lost, and lost badly. It's not going to be as easy for Meeks - not that it was against the Ducks - against Gonzaga, in addition to Collins, 7'1" Przemek Karnowski weighs in at 300 pounds. Meeks, however, won't be alone, and he may have the edge. He's no doubt quicker than Karnowski, and, he's stronger than the lanky Collins.

The two players upon whose shoulders victory or defeat will probably land are Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss and Carolina's Justin Jackson. Both led their teams in scoring during the regular season and each is the "go-to" guy in pressure situations. They both played well in the semis and are expected to be at their best in the final.

In the end, there really isn't much separating their last two teams standing, which should make for a thrilling conclusion to the college hoops season.

Enjoy.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Zach Collins Leads Gonzaga Past Gamecocks; Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina Hold Off Oregon

College Hoops Players of the Day for Saturday, April 1, 2017

Gonzaga 77 South Carolina 73

In the first national semi-final on Saturday, the Gonzaga Bulldogs did just enough to defeat a pesky #7 seed from the East Region, South Carolina, 77-73.

Essential to the success of the Bulldogs was the play of freshman forward, Zach Collins, who had possibly the best game of his brief college career, scoring 14 points with 13 rebounds and six blocked shots.

The lanky seven-footer came off the bench for 23 minutes of floor time and made every one of them valuable to the team effort, taking advantage of the smaller Gamecock forwards and defending the paint with his size and agility.

After a back-and-forth first half, Gonzaga finally seized a nine-point lead heading into the break and eventually led by 14 points, though a furious South Carolina spurt brought the Gamecocks all the way back and briefly into the lead at 67-65 with just over seven minutes left to play, but Collins' crucial three-pointer put the Bulldogs back on top and they would not trail the remainder of the game. In the final minutes, the Bulldog defense was too much for South Carolina, holding the Gamecocks to just two points in the final 2:30. When Killian Tillie notched a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left, putting the Bulldogs up by four, the celebration began.

Gonzaga's first ever trip to the Final Four will now also include a first ever championship game when they meet the North Carolina Tar Heels Monday night at 9:20 pm ET for the national championship. The top seed from the West, Gonzaga haeds into the game with the best record in the country, 37-1.

North Carolina 77 Oregon 76


North Carolina narrowly escaped an upset at the hands of the Oregon Ducks with one of the strangest final seconds of any game, tournament or otherwise, missing four free throws in the final 5.8 seconds while managing to hold onto a one-point lead, eventually advancing to the National Championship game with a 77-76 victory.

With the score at 77-76, Kennedy Meeks, who led all scorers by tying a career-high 25, stepped to the foul line with 5.8 seconds left, for two shots. Missing them both, an alert and aggressive Theo Pinson knifed in for the rebound, getting it outside to Joel Barry II, who was immediately fouled. Berry, normally a clam, 79% free throw shooter, also mangled both of his freebies, but Meeks grabeed the rebound from between two Oregon players and pitched it outside to Pinson, who took two dribbles before throwing the ball high into the air as time expired.

While the Tar Heels led most of the game, the Ducks would simply not go away, and had a legitimate chance at the win, but the Tar Heels, who led the nation in rebounding, did what they did best at the end, denying the Ducks a final scoring opportunity.

Throughout the game it was Meeks who kept North Carolina motoring toward the victory, finishing with 25 points on an incredible 11-for-13 shooting performance, with 14 rebounds, eight of them on the offensive end.

The Tar Heels meet Gonzaga in the National Championship Monday night. The game will be televised live on CBS with the tip at 9:20 pm ET.

Check College Basketball Daily on Monday morning for a preview of the National Championship match-up.

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through Saturday (4/1) Games
Conference (# of teams) Record Winners (# of Wins)
ACC (9) 10-8 Notre Dame (1), Florida St. (1), Virginia (1), Louisville (1), Duke (1), North Carolina (5)
Big East (7) 6-7 Villanova (1), Butler (2), Xavier (3)
Big Ten (7) 8-7 Purdue (2), Wisconsin (2), Northwestern (1), Michigan (2), Michigan State (1)
Big 12 (6) 9-6 Kansas State (1), West Virginia (2), Iowa St. (1), Kansas (3), Baylor (2)
SEC (5) 11-5* Florida (3), Arkansas (1), Kentucky (3), South Carolina (4)
PAC 12 (4) 10-4 USC (2), Arizona (2), Oregon (4), UCLA (2)
Atlantic 10 (3) 1-3 Rhode Island (1)
American (2) 1-2 Cincinnati (1)
West Coast (2) 6-1 Gonzaga (5), St. Mary's (1)
All Others (23) (4-23) Mt. St. Mary's (1), UC Davis (1), Middle Tennessee (1), Wichita State (1)

*One SEC loss and one SEC win occurred in the East Regional Final, South Carolina 77, Florida 70

Friday, March 31, 2017

NCAA: South vs. Midwest National Semi-Final, North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Oregon Ducks

North Carolina vs. Oregon, Saturday, April 1, 2017, 8:49 pm ET, CBS

The nightcap of the National Semi-Final includes one team that's been to the Final Four on multiple occasions - the North Carolina Tar Heels - and one that hasn't been since winning it all in 1939, the Oregon Ducks from the vastly underrated PAC-12 conference.


As shown below in CBD's Tournament Conference Scoreboard, the PAC-12, which sent a mere four teams to the tourney, has outperformed nearly all other conferences with 10 wins and just three losses. Only the SEC, now represented only by South Carolina, has more wins, with 11. The ACC, which sent nine teams - the most of any conference - has just nine wins, and the Tar Heels have accounted for four of them. Three ACC teams went down in their opening tournament game, and none, other than Carolina, won more than one game.

Thus, the dichotomy between the ACC and PAC-12 is clear, muddying the waters of the Final Four with an unusual conference set-up.

Statistics may tell another story about the relative chances of the Ducks and Tar Heels to advance to Monday's championship game. The most telling is North Carolina's dominance on the boards. They were the leading rebounding team in the nation during the regular season (43.5 per game) and that has continued during the tournament. The Tar Heels have grasped an average of 45.3 rebounds per game during their tournament run, winning by an average margin of 14 points, the most of any remaining team.

By contrast, Oregon has hauled in 37 rebounds per game during the tournament, wining their four games by an average margin of just 8.5 points per game, the lowest of the four competitors heading to Phoenix.

Oregon's wins are something of an oddity in themselves. After dropping #14 seed Iona in the opening round by 16, 93-77, they slipped by #11 Rhode Island, 75-72 and held on against #7 Michigan by a mere point, 69-68. Thus, when the Ducks met up with #1 seed in the Midwest, Kansas, there were doubters, but the Ducks played remarkably well on defense, holding the Jayhawks to a season-low 60 points in a no-doubt, 74-60, victory, posting their decond-largest winning margin.

See CBD's Final Four team stats here.

With the win over Kansas in hand, the task before the Ducks is daunting, because North Carolina has more scoring options than the Jayhawks, rebounds far better, share the ball better (18.0 assists per game during the tourney) and have an assist to turnover ratio of 1.36.


In the paint, the Ducks are short-handed, with stalwart Jordan Bell the only defender and rebounder of excellence since the injury to Chris Boucher. Bell had a monster game against Kansas (11 points, 13 board, 8 blocks), but will have his hands full against 6'10" Kennedy Meeks and 6'9" Isaiah Hicks. North Carolina will no doubt be going strong to the hole on every opportunity, as point guard Joel Berry II and forward Justin Jackson have driving, scoring and passing ability on a par with any team in the country.

Oregon may have to lean heavily on Tyler Dorsey, who has scored 20 or more in every tournament game thus far and has been on target from three-point range. They;ll also get scoring from Dillon Brooks and hope that Dylan Ennis steps up his game. The Ducks may play a lot of zone defense against North Carolina, forcing them to shoot threes, the one area of North Carolina's game that may be considered a slight weakness. The 31-7 Tar Heels are shooting just 32% from beyond the arc in the tourney. 33-5 Oregon is hitting threes at 43%, with Dorsey the main contributor.

Head to Saturday, the oddsmakers have North Carolina a mere five-point favorite. While Oregon has demonstrated throughout the tournament that they can defend well, they have not faced a team as deep and talented as the Tar Heels. North Carolina's rotation goes nine deep; Oregon is a stretch to get seven quality players into the game at this juncture.

North Carolina's depth and general advantage in the paint could produce a monstrous blowout, especially if the Tar Heels establish a lead early and defend the three-point line. There's also the intangible factor of North Carolina's last-second loss to Villanova in the tournament final last season that comes into play. The Tar Heels are hungry for retribution which only a national championship can provide, making them the overall favorite to emerge victorious, not just in this game, but again on Monday night. Oregon could see the end of the line despite a solid run.

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through Sunday (3/26) Games
Conference (# of teams) Record Winners (# of Wins)
ACC (9) 9-8 Notre Dame (1), Florida St. (1), Virginia (1), Louisville (1), Duke (1), North Carolina (4)
Big East (7) 6-7 Villanova (1), Butler (2), Xavier (3)
Big Ten (7) 8-7 Purdue (2), Wisconsin (2), Northwestern (1), Michigan (2), Michigan State (1)
Big 12 (6) 9-6 Kansas State (1), West Virginia (2), Iowa St. (1), Kansas (3), Baylor (2)
SEC (5) 11-4* Florida (3), Arkansas (1), Kentucky (3), South Carolina (4)
PAC 12 (4) 10-3 USC (2), Arizona (2), Oregon (4), UCLA (2)
Atlantic 10 (3) 1-3 Rhode Island (1)
American (2) 1-2 Cincinnati (1)
West Coast (2) 5-1 Gonzaga (4), St. Mary's (1)
All Others (23) (4-23) Mt. St. Mary's (1), UC Davis (1), Middle Tennessee (1), Wichita State (1)

*One SEC loss and one SEC win occurred in the East Regional Final, South Carolina 77, Florida 70

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Final Four: East vs. West Regions, South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs

East meets West, Saturday, April 1, 6:09 pm ET, CBS

Gonzaga enters the national semi-final against South Carolina as a considerable favorite of 6 1/2 points, a somewhat surprising number since the Gamecocks are playing at such a high level, having already dusted tournament low seeds such as Duke (#2), Baylor (#3), and Florida (#4) by solid margins.

In terms of margin of victory, the two teams appear to be on a collision course with the Zags' average margin during the tournament being 13.25 and South Carolina's at 13.5.

Gonzaga, having defeated - in order - a 16 (South Dakota State), an 8 (Northwestern), a 4 (West Virginia), and an 11 (Xavier) by scores of 20, 6, 3 and 24, respectively. It's worth noticing that the lowest margins of victory were actually against the better teams (i.e., the lower-numbered seeds) and it's entirely possible that the upset-minded Musketeers from Xavier simply ran out of gas against the Bulldogs after beating #2 Arizona, 73-71.

Seeds of 11 or higher generally don't make the Final Four. In fact, no team seeded higher than 11 has ever reached the promised land of college basketball. Three 11 seeds have, those being LSU, in 1986; George Mason in 2006; and VCU in 2011. None of them won.

So, the 24-point romp over Xavier, which finished the season with a very respectable 24-14 record has to be weighed against their overall quality. The Musketeers were 9-9 in the Big East conference. The Big East may have been massively overseeded, sending seven teams and finishing with a record of 6-7 in the tournament. Only Xavier, Villanova (knocked out in the second round), and Butler won games. Not to belabor the point, but the Bulldogs may have had one of the easier paths to the Final Four, thanks, in part, to Xavier, for whipping the #2 and #3 seeds in the region, Arizona and Florida State.

Gonzaga's three-point win over #4 seed West Virginia is another indicator that the Bulldogs may not be competitive against the very best in the country. Though they have, during the regular season, posted wins over Florida, Iowa State, and Arizona, but those games were all played on their home court, a definite advantage.

See College Basketball Daily's Final Four Stats post for more.

Looking at South Carolina's wins, they came against #10 Marquette, 93-73; #2 Duke, 88-81; #3 Baylor, 70-50; and #4 Florida, 77-70. The Gamecocks took down three of the four top seeds in the region, and, it's possible that they may have been in business against #1 Villanova, but Wisconsin (beaten by Florida in the Sweet 16) beat them to it.

The quality of South Carolina's wins are very high, as are some other revealing tournament stats. The Gamecocks are scoring an average of 82.0 points per game; Gonzaga, 72.3. South Carolina is also shooting better, .476 to .432, and making their free throws. They were shooting freebies at a 69% rate and are knocking them down at 75% during their tourney run. Gonzaga has gone in the opposite direction, making 74% during the regular season and devolving down to 59% in the tourney.

While the Bulldogs carry into the game the gaudy 36-1 record (best in the country), South Carolina pales by comparison at 26-10, but they appear to be very much in the mold of a team playing with purpose and conviction. Team leader, Sindarius Thornwell is a senior and was the SEC Player of the Year. Among other scoring options for South Carolina are the shifty PJ Dozier and Carlos Silva on the interior. 6'10" freshman forward, Maik Kotsar emerged as a real threat in the win over the Gators, scoring 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting.

For Gonzaga, they always need a big effort from leading scorer Nigel Williams-Goss (16.7 ppg regular season) because after him, the talent level falls off in fairly dramatic fashion, but the Bulldogs are fairly deep and play excellent defense.

In the final analysis, it's difficult to see how the Bulldogs can defeat this solid bunch from South Carolina by more than a few points, if at all. Taking the 6 1/2 points would seem to be just about a no-brainer as the Gamecocks may prove to be one of the best 8-seeds of all time.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Key Players For NCAA FINAL FOUR: North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Gonzaga

Tournament Final Four Key Players

North Carolina Tar Heels (31-7)

It's difficult to identify just one key player for the Tar Heels, but if anyone fits the bill, it is point guard Joel Berry II. Berry leads the team in assists, is second in scoring (14.6 points per game), and runs the offense. Available to either drive the ball, lead the fast break or shoot threes, Berry is always a key component to the Carolina offense.

Defensively, nobody plugs the middle like Kennedy Meeks, the 6'10" double-double machine. Meeks is imposing in size and a strong defender and rebounder. Against Kentucky in the South regional final, Meeks had just seven points, but collected 17 rebounds. The Wildcats didn't get many second shots and the Ducks likely won't either if Meeks is on his game.

Oregon Ducks (33-5)

Oregon's offense flows through 6'4" guard Tyler Dorsey, who averaged 14.5 points during the regular season, but has stepped up his game significantly in the post season, scoring 20 or more points in seven straight games, including 27 in each of the Ducks' wins over Rhode Island (75-72) and the blowout 74-60 victory over Kansas in the Midwest Regional final.

Deadly from beyond the arc, if left open, Dorsey makes the opposition pay dearly, stroking it at 65.4% (17-for-26) during the tournament, his three-point shots have proven to set the Ducks flying time and again, and will be a potent weapon against the Tar Heels.

A stalwart on defense is 6'9" forward Jordan Bell, who scored 11 points with 13 rebounds and 8 blocked shots in Oregon's win over Kansas. He'll be up against a variety of long and lanky Tar Heels in the paint, but is tough to root out once he's established position. Bell will be a key for the Ducks on both the offensive and defensive boards.

South Carolina Gamecocks (26-10)

Averaging 25.8 points per game, Sindarius Thornwell is on pace for Tournament Most Outstanding Player should South Carolina move forward to the National Championship. The Gamecock forward is generally unstoppable for an entire game and Carolina looks to him constantly throughout contests to pace the offense and especially in tight conditions at the end of the half or the game. Thornwell is the leading scorer among players remaining in the tournament and will have to be at his best if the Gamecocks are to reach the tourney final. Preparedness is high on the "to do" list for South Carolina, so expect Thornwell, the SEC Player of the Year (and there were some good ones in the conference), to be focused and show leadership.

Gonzaga Bulldogs (36-1)

There is one and only one key player for the Bulldogs, and he is known as Nigel Williams-Goss, the team leader in both scoring (16.7) and assists (4.6), and the second-leading rebounder (5.9). The 6'3" junior from Happy Valley, Oregon is a homegrown legend in the Pacific Northwest and the absolute key to Gonzaga's success. Capable of leaping out of his sneakers, Williams-Goss can penetrate or shoot three-pointers with the best in the nation.

As he goes, so go the Bulldogs, and, with just one loss, he's been going good all season long. Against Xavier in the West regional final, he did not shoot well (7-for-19), but had 23 points, making four of seven from three-point range, with eight rebounds, four assists, a pair of steals and a blocked shot. Williams-Goss has been Gonzaga's go-to guy and will be up to the challenge presented by South Carolina's stout defense.

Thursday: Analysis of East-West, South Carolina-Gonzaga National Semi-final
Friday: Analysis of Midwest-South, Oregon-North Carolina National Semi-final

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2017 NCAA Final Four Stats; Gonzaga vs. South Carolina; Oregon vs. North Carolina

NCAA Regular Season and Tournament Stats






Regular Season Stats per game
Team points FG% FT% 3pt% Reb. asst. a/to steals blocks
North Carolina 84.9 .471 .705 .366 43.5 18.2 1.53 6.94 3.24
Oregon 79.1 .481 .711 .378 36.4 16.4 1.42 6.50 6.65

Gonzaga 84.6 .518 .738 .382 40.3 16.0 1.42 7.15 4.45
South Carolina 72.1 .414 .690 .338 36.3 12.6 0.94 7.84 3.88

Tournament Stats per game
Team points FG% FT% 3pt% Reb. ass a/to steals blocks
North Carolina 85.5 .474 .700 .321 45.3 18.0 1.36 8.25 4.50
Oregon 77.8 .500 .648 .432 37.0 12.3 1.11 6.75 3.75

Gonzaga 72.3 .432 .586 .350 41.8 10.0 0.82 6.00 5.75
South Carolina 82.0 .476 .752 .329 36.8 13.0 1.11 7.50 3.00

Tournament margin of victory
Team gm1 gm2 gm3 gm4 total avg.
North Carolina 39 7 8 2 56 14
Oregon 16 3 1 14 34 8.5

Gonzaga 20 6 3 24 53 13.25
South Carolina 20 7 20 7 54 13.5



The week ahead:
Wednesday: Key players, situations, strategies...
Thursday: East-West National Semi-Final Preview
Friday: South-Midwest National Semi-Final Preview