A boring first round, an upset-filled second round and classic games in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight have characterized the 2017 NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament thus far.
Gonzaga, North Carolina, Oregon and South Carolina are the final teams remaining and are set to tip off Saturday night.
Here's a look at the latest bracket, schedule, odds and predictions for the Final Four.
|Final Four Schedule (Saturday, April 1)|
|No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 7 South Carolina||GU (-7)||138||6:09 p.m.||CBS|
|No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon||UNC (-5)||152||8:49 p.m.||CBS|
|Schedule: NCAA.com; Odds: OddsShark.com|
Predictions and Odds Tips
Gonzaga vs. South Carolina
The opener between Gonzaga and South Carolina figures to be low-scoring.
The Bulldogs and Gamecocks are ranked first and sixth in adjusted defensive efficiency, respectively, per KenPom.com. Furthermore, Gonzaga only allows 60.9 points per game, while South Carolina isn't far behind, letting up just 64.9 points a night.
The over-under for this game sits at 138 points, with Gonzaga favored by seven. If you do the math, that gives Gonzaga an implied point total of 72.5 points, with South Carolina sitting at 65.5.
That seems a bit high for both sides. Outside its Elite Eight performance against Xavier, Gonzaga's offense hasn't looked good in this tournament. The Bulldogs scored only 26 first-half points in an ugly 66-46 win over No. 16 seed South Dakota State in the first round, and they shot just 44.1 percent and committed 14 turnovers against Northwestern in the second round.
They didn't fare much better in the Sweet 16, scoring just 61 points, although that was against West Virginia, perhaps better known this year as "Press Virginia" for its suffocating press defense.
South Carolina's defense has been fantastic in the NCAA tournament. Most notably, the Gamecocks put on a clinic against Baylor in the Sweet 16, holding the Bears to just 50 points in a 70-50 SC win.
Therefore, expect this game to be low-scoring, with neither team jumping out to a significant advantage. Gonzaga is the better team on paper and should win this game, but it will be close enough that bettors should strongly consider taking South Carolina plus the seven points.
Pick (straight-up): Gonzaga
Over/Under (138): Under
Spread: South Carolina (+7)
North Carolina vs. Oregon
This game might be the polar opposite of Gonzaga vs. South Carolina, as it wouldn't be a surprise to see it reach the 80s.
North Carolina and Oregon are sixth and 16th, respectively, in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom.com. The Tar Heels are also ninth in Division I with 85.0 points per game, while Oregon scores 78.9 a night.
The current over-under total is 152, with North Carolina favored by five. If we look at the implied totals again, that puts UNC at 78.5 and Oregon at 73.5.
That certainly seems like a potential score in this game (provided we chop off those extra half-points). While UNC and Oregon are stout offensive teams, they aren't bad on the defensive end, either. KenPom.com ranks them 17th and 18th, respectively, in adjusted defensive efficiency.
That's due in large part to some excellent post play down low in the form of seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks for UNC and junior Jordan Bell for Oregon. Sophomore forward Chris Boucher was also fantastic in the paint for the Ducks off the bench, but he is out for the year after suffering a torn ACL in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals against Cal.
Boucher averaged 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks for the Ducks this season. With him no longer in the mix, the Ducks went to six-man rotations in the last two rounds.
That short bench hasn't been an issue in the tournament so far, but it might be against UNC, which has a lot of depth, led by reserve sophomore forward Luke Maye and his 12.5 points per game in the NCAA tournament.
Expect UNC's size to be too much for Oregon to handle down low and for the Tar Heels' bench to make some key contributions en route to a championship berth.
Pick (straight-up): North Carolina
Over/Under (152): Over
Spread: North Carolina (-5)