Thursday, 30 March 2017

Final Four 2017 Breakdown

March Madness reaches its crescendo this weekend. 68 teams started on the road to Phoenix, and now four remain. Of these four we have two number one seeds, two surprises and yet three teams competing in their first Final Four ever and one blue blood, blue chip program.

In this piece I will be breaking down the Final Four teams and the match ups albeit in brief, but if you like what you are reading, please comment and let me know.

On Saturday night we have the two semi-final matchups; South Carolina (7) v Gonzaga (1) followed by Oregon (3) v North Carolina (1).

South Carolina Gamecocks
(SEC, 26-10)

The lowest ranked seed and the best story of the tournament, an embattled head coach whose behaviour on the sidelines sometimes draws more headlines than his teams play. Frank Martin led the Gamecocks to the tournament on a bad run of only three wins in their last 9 games, the last two being defeats to Ole Miss and Alabama - two teams who did not make the tournament.

However, Martin can coach defence and in the same vein of Rick Pitino's Louisville national title winning side of recent years, defence can get you further in a single-elimination format. They have defeated Marquette, Duke, Baylor and Florida, all teams with powerful offences that they have slowed down by being physical. Can they slow down Gonzaga who are as big and as powerful in a good match-up contest. Their own offensive efficiency despite Sindarius Thornwell's heroics might mean this is one game too far; yet they have showed that there is more to the SEC than just John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.

Gonzaga Bulldogs
(WCC, 36-1)

The King of the mid-majors finally made the Final Four after numerous falls following numerous seedings as No.1. This year, Mark Few has garnered his best team full of versatility owing to the nine-man rotation Few employs. Led by Polish senior guard Przemek Karnowski and junior guard Nigel Williams-Ross; the Bulldogs can mix it up defensively in a low scoring game such as the press versus West Virginia or dominant with their size as they did against Xavier in that 24 point victory in the Elite 8.

The thing to fear of the Bulldogs is the stage itself, this is the first time these players would have played in a venue this size and the same applies to Few also. This is a stage Few and his team were made for, now he has to fulfil all the promise and handle the expectation, firstly to overcome the stellar South Carolina defence then who knows.

Oregon Ducks
(Pac-12, 33-5)

These mighty Ducks have had to overcome the most adversity following the loss of Chris Boucher to an ACL injury before the tournament started, and yet the play of three guys Tyler Dorsey, Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell have taken turns to dominant games. Against Kansas they dominated the paint owing to Bell's size and favourable matchup versus the Jayhawks smaller guards; this might not happen against the North Carolina Tar Heels who won the battle of the paint versus Kentucky.

The Ducks can have offensive nights and can stop teams but can they do so against the Tar Heels who have modified their tempo from game to game, and who matchup well in the paint with them.

North Carolina Tar Heels
(ACC, 31-7)

The Tar Heels have been here before, Roy Williams has been here before. They are probably the favourites to win it all, and it is the versatility of their line up and potential to alter their game to the opponent. Against Kentucky they took Justin Jackson and his offensive potential and instead told him to go man-to-man on Malik Monk prompting Jackson to shoot less and getting more points from Theo Pinson and game-winner Luke Maye. 

The Tar Heels have other game changers in Kennedy Meeks and Stilman White, while questions remain over the full fitness of Joel Berry who has an ankle injury.  The Tar Heels unlike the other teams in the field, have more answers than questions hanging over them. If Jackson can be unleashed from defensive duties will the Ducks be able to handle a team that can easily score 70+, can the Ducks match that.

Final Four predictions
Gonzaga over South Carolina; North Carolina over Oregon

Title match
North Carolina defeat Gonzaga in a classic and Roy Williams is cutting down the nets.

Image result for roy williams dancing gif

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