The Final Four is ready to take over Glendale, Arizona. This year, the four teams left standing are diverse. While North Carolina is in the Final Four for the second consecutive season (and 20th time overall), two teams are making their debut and one team hasn’t made it this far since 1939. All of that leads to what should be three intriguing final contests.


South Carolina Gamecocks versus Gonzaga Bulldogs

The first game in Glendale pits Gonzaga against South Carolina. While the Bulldogs have been a solid college basketball program under Mark Few (eight Sweet 16 appearances in 18 years), this is their first trip to the Final Four. This is also new territory for the Gamecocks, who have never been to the Sweet 16 before, let alone the Final Four. They’re led by an experienced head coach Frank Martin, who previously took Kansas State to the Elite Eight in 2010. South Carolina has been the biggest surprise of the bracket, as they had lost five of their last seven upon entering the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga has a huge frontcourt with seven-foot, 300-pound Przemek Karnowski and seven-foot freshman Zach Collins. These players helped the Bulldogs finish 10th in rebounding margin. As for the Gamecocks, they’ll rely on SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell, who’s averaging 25.8 points per game throughout March Madness.

The Bulldogs are listed as 6.5-point favourites on the game line odds, but the Gamecocks are comfortable in the underdog role. They were underdogs against Duke, Baylor and Florida, and won each of those games outright.


Oregon Ducks versus North Carolina Tar Heels

While the first contest could be a grind, the second should feature offense. Oregon (+525 to win it all) and North Carolina (+145 to win it all) could have met at the Maui Invitational in November, but the Ducks lost to Georgetown. The Tar Heels won that tournament and the last two times they won at Maui (2004 and 2008), they went on to win the national title. Roy Williams has led the Tar Heels to the Final Four for the fifth time, while Oregon head coach Dana Altman will be making his Final Four debut.

North Carolina are laying five points on the betting lines. They’re ninth in scoring, whereas the Ducks are 49th. Rebounding should be the key to this contest, and the Tar Heels are the best in that business. They led the nation in rebounding margin, checking in at 13.0. To make matters worse for Oregon, they’re playing without big man Chris Boucher, who averaged 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. The Ducks haven’t missed him to this point, but they’ll need all the help they can get when they take on the favourites.


*Odds as of March 31, 2017