On paper, Saturday's Final Four games are not expected to be nail-biters.
OddsShark lists Gonzaga as a 6.5-point favorite over South Carolina and North Carolina as a 4.5-point favorite over Oregon.
That being said, no one (outside South Carolina) expected the Gamecocks to be in the Final Four. Not many more thought Oregon could make it to Glendale, Arizona, after losing sophomore forward Chris Boucher for the season with a torn ACL suffered during the Pac-12 tournament.
Here's a look at the latest NCAA tournament bracket, as well as the schedule for Saturday's Final Four games and Monday's championship tilt. Then, take a look at predictions for each matchup, with a focus on the two underdogs and how each can win.
|NCAA Tournament Final Four and Championship Schedule|
|No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 7 South Carolina||Final Four||Saturday, April 1||6:09 p.m.||CBS|
|No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon||Final Four||Saturday, April 1||8:49 p.m.||CBS|
|GU/SC winner vs. UNC/UO winner||Championship||Monday, April 3||9 p.m.||CBS|
Gonzaga vs. South Carolina
South Carolina's do-it-all senior guard, Sindarius Thornwell, has been dominant in the NCAA tournament, averaging 25.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.
He's had a lot of help from his friends in the starting lineup en route to the Final Four.
Sophomore forward Chris Silva has been one of the more efficient players in the tournament, as he averaged 13.0 points and 7.8 rebounds in just 25.5 minutes per game.
Sophomore guard PJ Dozier has averaged 15.3 points per game, and senior guard Duane Notice has posted 11.0 points per contest.
In the Elite Eight, freshman forward Maik Kotsar scored 12 via a sweet shooting touch (6-of-10 from the field) against Florida in a 77-70 win.
The Gamecocks have also been playing tremendous team defense, most notably swarming to the ball on every Baylor possession in a 70-50 win over the Bears in the Sweet 16.
They rank No. 2 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com, but the Gamecocks will be facing off against Gonzaga, the team rated No. 1 in that category.
This looks set to be a low-scoring contest. The key is whether South Carolina's starting lineup outside Thornwell can continue to produce.
Offensive production has been inconsistent in South Carolina's starting lineup this season.
Silva has averaged 3.8 fouls per game in just 20.7 minutes of action. If he's on the court, he should be productive as usual, but he can be out for long stretches of time if he picks up a few quick fouls.
Notice has had an up-and-down tournament (and season). On the plus side, he dropped 17 against Duke on 6-of-8 shooting. On the minus side, he missed eight of his 10 three-pointers against Marquette.
Notice hasn't had a good year shooting the ball, either, making 39.1 percent of his field goals and only 34.0 percent of his three-pointers.
However, as seen against the Blue Devils, he can get hot from long range against top competition.
Dozier has been great lately, but he struggled during a nine-game stretch before the NCAA tournament, making only 45 of his 137 field-goal attempts (32.8 percent). SC went 3-6 during that span.
Kotsar was hot in the non-conference portion of SC's schedule and at one point scored at least 10 points in seven of nine games. However, he cooled off during SEC play and only scored in double digits once during the 2017 calendar year before the Elite Eight.
It comes down to whether the four Gamecocks not named Thornwell can produce offensively. If they are hitting their shots and staying out of foul trouble, then this is going to be a great game. If not, this has the chance to get out of hand.
The pick here is Gonzaga, although expect this to be competitive late in the second half.
North Carolina vs. Oregon
Like South Carolina, Oregon has a high-scoring guard who can single-handedly dominate a game.
Sophomore Tyler "Mr. March" Dorsey has been sensational thus far. Either he or Thornwell is arguably this tournament's most outstanding player at the moment.
Dorsey has made 34 of his 51 field-goal attempts (66.6 percent) and 17 of his 26 three-pointers (65.4 percent). Simply put, he's the key to Oregon pulling off another upset.
If Dorsey can continue to knock down outside jumpers, then North Carolina, which leads Division I in rebounding margin by a long shot (the Tar Heels out-rebound their opponents by 13.0 per game), will not have as many missed field goals to corral, thereby helping neutralize its greatest strength.
That being said, junior forward Jordan Bell should be able to give UNC's big men, senior forwards Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, a strong challenge down low.
Bell has been phenomenal in the NCAA tournament, averaging 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Bell also blocked eight shots against Kansas in the Elite Eight. He looked like he was wearing Moon Shoes while the Jayhawks were bound by gravity to the floor.
Bell could pose a big problem for Meeks and Hicks, but the X-factor is the bench.
UNC has sophomore forward Luke Maye, who scored 17 points (in just 20 minutes) and hit the game-winning shot against Kentucky in the Elite Eight, as well as senior Nate Britt and freshman forward Tony Bradley.
Oregon isn't as deep with the loss of Boucher. In the NCAA tournament, no more than seven Ducks have played at least 10 in a game, and in two contests, only six players hit that mark. That might be a problem against a deeper UNC team.
Like Gonzaga vs. South Carolina, this game should stay close deep into the second half. But take the Tar Heels to advance to the championship game.