NCAA Bracket 2017: Final Four Teams, Updated Schedule and Picks

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2017

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26:  Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks reacts in the second half with teammates PJ Dozier #15 and Maik Kotsar #21 against the Florida Gators during the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Madison Square Garden on March 26, 2017 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

We're inching closer to crowning a new men's college basketball champion. On Saturday, No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 7 South Carolina will jump-start Final Four action, followed by No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon. Who's going to the NCAA title game?

From a spectator perspective, it's hard to describe Gonzaga. ESPN's Jay Bilas highlighted the conflicting narratives on the Bulldogs:

On one hand, head coach Mark Few guided the school to its first Final Four appearance. Nonetheless, they're still a No. 1 seed with a 36-1 record.

Oregon will play in its second Final Four matchup, and they're a No. 3 seed that came out of the Midwest Region after a convincing victory over No. 1 Kansas.

South Carolina goes to Glendale, Arizona, as the Cinderella team with no business playing this late in the Big Dance. The Gamecocks lost consecutive games to Mississippi and Alabama before the NCAA tournament.

North Carolina goes into Saturday's matchup as the leading program in Final Four appearances:

Which two teams advance to the National final? Game times and viewing info are listed below:

NCAA Final Four Matchups
MatchupTime (ET)TVProjected Winner
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 7 South Carolina6:09 p.m.CBSSouth Carolina
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon8:49 p.m.CBSNorth Carolina
ESPN.com

 

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 7 South Carolina

Based on program history, this isn't a David vs. Goliath matchup. Either way, one school will compete for an NCAA men's championship for the first time. In the past, Few has coached talented teams but fell short of this round in the tournament.

Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller highlighted Gonzaga's reliance on transfer students to propel them through the West Region. Guards Nigel Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews paired with forward Jonathan Williams have spent just one season together, but they're collectively playing at a high level. 

Unlike the Gamecocks, it's an ineffective approach to focus on one or two Bulldogs on the offensive end. In the previous two outings, the three players finished with double-digit scoring totals. Though Williams-Goss leads the pack as the most prominent scorer, Mathews and Williams have contributed in big spots during tournament play. 

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26:  Head coach Frank Martin of he South Carolina Gamecocks celebrate with his team after defeating the Florida Gators with a score of 77 to 70 to win the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Madison Square Garden on
Elsa/Getty Images

South Carolina's defense frustrated Florida in the Elite Eight round, which led to poor shot selection and points off turnovers. The Gamecocks' tenacity on the defensive end could mirror West Virginia's performance against the Bulldogs during the Sweet 16 round. South Carolina brings more firepower to the court compared to the Mountaineers, which puts Gonzaga in a tough matchup.

Sindarius Thornwell, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, hasn't showed signs of slowing down. He scored at least 24 points in all four victories. He and sophomore guard PJ Dozier play both ends of the court. Together, they'll have the ability to quell Gonzaga's timely perimeter shooting.

The Gamecocks have the prominent scorers coupled with defensive effort to take down another favorite. Thornwell will continue his highlight run through the tournament. 

Prediction: South Carolina 76, Gonzaga 72

 

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon

North Carolina limited Kentucky's standout freshmen De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk for the majority of the game in the previous outing. The Tar Heels will have to bear down defensively against another prolific scoring duo in guard Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks. Both players shoot above 40 percent from beyond the arc and possess the ability to take the ball to the basket.

Due to North Carolina's interior toughness, the Ducks have a better chance at winning this game on a good shooting night. Forward Jordan Bell must remain active on the boards to provide second-chance opportunities.

Up to this point, the Ducks haven't missed forward Chris Boucher's presence in the paint because they've been able to rack up points in bunches. However, the Tar Heels' roster, filled with NBA bodies, will dominate the glass and offer too much for Bell to handle alone.

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 26: Joel Berry II #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels handles the ball in the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at FedExForum on March 26, 2017 in Memphis, Tennesse
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Guard Joel Berry II has tried to play through a funk during the tournament. A fast-paced game will allow him to shoot his way out of a slump. If Berry continues to struggle with his shot, forward Kennedy Meeks will be down low to collect offensive rebounds while forward Justin Jackson looks to finish at the rim. Additionally, forward Luke Maye has provided a much-needed boost off the bench.

North Carolina may need Maye to produce another double-digit scoring performance, but the Tar Heels defense has been a staple throughout the tournament. Roy Williams' team should return to the championship game—where it will get a shot at the NCAA title in a battle between the Carolinas.

Prediction: North Carolina 81, Oregon 77

 

Stats provided by Sports Reference unless otherwise noted.

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