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