NCAA Tournament 2017: Latest Bracket Picks and Odds Advice Before Final Four

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 1, 2017

South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell (0) celebrates after a second-round game against Duke in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Greenville, S.C., Sunday, March 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

The SEC has dominated men's and women's college basketball in March.

Three SEC teams made the Elite Eight in the men's field. One team (South Carolina) beat another (Florida) and a third (Kentucky) nearly took down a No. 1 seed (North Carolina), losing on a last-second jumper.

On the women's side, Mississippi State just defeated UConn, winners of 111 straight games, in the Final Four, and it will now face SEC powerhouse South Carolina for the championship.

Will the South Carolina men's team keep the SEC dominance alive in the Final Four?

Here's a look at the latest picks and odds advice, including some takes on the Gamecocks and the other three Final Four teams in the field.


Schedule and Odds

Final Four Schedule (Saturday, April 1)
MatchupSpreadOver-UnderTime (ET)Television
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 7 South CarolinaGU (-7)1386:09 p.m.CBS
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 OregonUNC (-5)1528:49 p.m.CBS (schedule); (odds)
National Championship Odds
North Carolina+140
South Carolina+750

Picks and Odds Advice

Gonzaga vs. South Carolina

If you're picking against the spread and betting against the over/under this weekend, then the bet to feel most confident about is taking under 138 points in the Gonzaga vs. South Carolina game.

Gonzaga and South Carolina are two of the best defensive teams in the nation. The Bulldogs held their opponents to 36.5-percent shooting this season, which ranked second in Division I. The Gamecocks weren't too far behind, ranking 15th with a 39.8 field-goal-percentage defense.

South Carolina isn't a great offensive team, ranking 104th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per Gonzaga is 14th in that statistic, but it has also struggled offensively in the tournament, shooting just 43.2 percent from the field.

Look for this game to stay in the 60s for both teams.

As for the winner, Gonzaga is the better team on paper, specifically because of its scoring depth. Seven Bulldogs average at least seven points per game, and three players in the rotation shoot at least 59 percent from the field. As a team, the Bulldogs shoot over 50 percent from the field.

South Carolina, on the other hand, has struggled offensively this year. Thornwell is SC's clear No. 1 option and scores 21.6 points per game. Three other starters also average at least 10 points per game, but two of them, senior guard Duane Notice and sophomore guard PJ Dozier, have had tough shooting years (39.1 percent and 40.6 percent, respectively).

That doesn't necessarily mean they are bound to go cold against South Carolina. Each has had solid individual performances this season and in the tournament specifically.

However, when looking at each rotation, Gonzaga is more efficient and boasts more depth, so the Bulldogs are the pick to advance to the championship.

Pick (straight-up): Gonzaga 

Over/Under (138): Under

Spread: South Carolina (+7)

North Carolina vs. Oregon

On paper, this game looks to be a mismatch.

North Carolina has two big advantages over Oregon. First, the Tar Heels are a much better rebounding team, as they are first in Division I in rebound margin. Second, UNC is a deep team that can run eight or nine players out there, while Oregon has been rolling with just six in its last two tournament games.

That being said, to paraphrase Mississippi State women's basketball head coach Vic Schaefer in an on-court postgame interview with ESPN following the Bulldogs' upset victory over UConn on Saturday night, you only need to win one time in tournament play. It's not a seven-game series.

Oregon can win this game, and the most feasible path to victory involves sophomore guard Tyler "Mr. March" Dorsey. It's not uncommon for a player to get hot in tournament play and lead his team to the Final Four (or even the national title). Some examples include Danny and the Miracles (Danny Manning and the 1987-1988 Kansas Jayhawks) and Kemba Walker and the 2010-2011 UConn Huskies.

With all due respect to Thornwell, no one in this tournament is playing better than Dorsey. He is averaging 24.5 points per game on 66.6 percent shooting. In other words, he is making two out of every three shots. Dorsey has also been lights-out from long range, making 17 of 26 three-pointers (65.4 percent).

If Dorsey continues his hot streak, Oregon can pull off the upset.

Expect Dorsey to do well enough again to keep this game close, but it's hard to look past UNC's rebounding and depth strengths and take Oregon for the win.

Therefore, the pick is UNC to beat the spread in a higher-scoring game.

Pick (straight-up): North Carolina

Over/Under (152): Over

Spread: North Carolina (-5)


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