March Madness is one of my top sporting events. Each Spring, raw talent is displayed on the court from all over the nation; for three weeks, 68 teams are placed in a single-elimination tournament to battle until we have just one team standing to hoist the national championship trophy at mid-court. The Big Dance has become one of the most famous annual sporting events in the United States. Another reason why the popularity of this event is so high is because of its simplicity. Name another postseason spectacular that you can watch ANYWHERE in public and you don’t have to know players’ names? I’ll wait.
We are down to four teams – South Carolina Gamecocks, Oregon Ducks, Gonzaga Bulldogs, and the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Final Four kicks off on April Fool’s Day and every team is only two wins away from cutting down the nets. But some teams had a much harder road to make that dream a reality than the others.
Here’s my take on each team in the semi finals
- Oregon Ducks (33-5) – Head Coach: Dana Altman – Teams they beat in the tourney: Iona, Rhode Island, Michigan, and Kansas. Next up: North Carolina
This is the first Final Four for the Ducks since 1939. If they were able to get through the Tar Heels, and that’s a big if, they would have all the confidence and momentum they needed to win the title.
X-Factor: Tyler Dorsey might be playing better than anyone in the country right now. He’s had 20 points or more in every game in the tournament, including going for 27 points in the Elite Eight win over Kansas.
- South Carolina Gamecocks (26-10) – Head Coach: Frank Martin – Teams they had to beat in the tourney: Marquette, Duke, Baylor, and Florida. Next up: Gonzaga
This is the first Final Four in school’s history and unless you are from South Carolina, went to USC, or a family member/close friend of Martin or his players….don’t even try to convince me that you had the Gamecocks reaching this far in the tournament because I don’t like people insulting my intelligence.
This team reminds me of the ’93-’94 Arkansas Razorbacks lead by head coach Nolan Richardson. Richardson utilized the “40 Minutes of Hell” which consist of the game going at a fast pace and an intense defense that would not let up until the end of the game. This is what I see in Martin and his team. The Gamecocks motto this post season has been “why not us”, and it looks like they are going to have some more whiteboard material as they have the worst odds to be cutting down the nets in Arizona.
X-Factor: Sindarius Thornwell was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Eastern Region. He has at 24 points in ever tournament game, including going for 26 points and seven rebounds in the Florida win.
- Gonzaga Bulldogs (36-1) – Head Coach: Mark Few – Teams they had to beat in the tourney: South Dakota State, Northwestern, West Virginia, and Xavier. Next up: South Carolina
Just like the Gamecocks, this will be the first Final Four in Gonzaga’s history. Before this season, Few was the winningest head coach in college history without a Final Four appearance; he has been to the dance every season of his 18-year career at the school.
On paper the Bulldogs have the easiest Final Four game and then if they reach the National Championship game anything can happen. For Gonzaga to win they need Przemek Karnowski to continue to play well. He is a force inside and will still be the x-factor for the Bulldogs.
X-Factor: Nigel Williams-Goss is a deadly scorer at the guard position, and he went off for 23 points, eight rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal versus Xavier in the Elite Eight.
- North Carolina Tar Heels (31-7) – Head Coach: Roy Williams – Teams they had to beat in the tourney: Texas Southern, Arkansas, Butler, and Kentucky. Next up: Oregon
The Tar Heels are the last of the Blue Bloods left standing among the four. They have a rich history in the tournament (5-National Championships out of 10 appearances with 20 Final Four tickets punched) and looking forward to redeeming themselves after falling to the Villanova Wildcats last year in arguably one of the most exciting final minute of an NCAA basketball championship ever.
X-Factor: Justin Jackson has had at least 15 points in every game during the tournament, including 19 points, five rebounds and four assists in the Kentucky win.
Here’s all the info you need to know about this weekend. Good luck with your pick!
Date: Saturday, April 1
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium
#7 South Carolina vs. #1 Gonzaga at 5:09pm CST
#3 Oregon vs. #1 North Carolina at 7:49pm CST