Men's Basketball 2017 NCAA Tournament Final Four Game Breakdowns

NCAA Tournament Final Four Game Breakdowns
For the first time in program history, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have reached the Final Four. The run for the 11-seed Xavier Musketeers was bound to end sooner or later. Without Edmond Sumner, they maximized their production in the tournament. It was surely debilitating to go down with Trevon Bluiett shooting 3-of-14 from the field, but Gonzaga had a lot to do with that. The Zags dominated the defensive end, holding Xavier to 35.5 percent shooting. They also dominated the offensive end, hitting an unconscious 12-of-24 from three. Gonzaga ranked outside the top 150 nationally in made threes per game during the regular season. Arguably the country’s best all-around club besides that, Gonzaga is simply unbeatable when the outside shot is falling at such a clip. Xavier didn’t stand a chance. It took quite a number of years for the Bulldogs to shake the choker label, even though it was undeserved in the first place, but it is surely worth it to have now made the Final Four and be a favorite to bring home a national championship.
Just like the Zags, the South Carolina Gamecocks are also attending their first Final Four in team history. It took another peerless defensive effort to get them there; one that fans weren’t sure was going to come through. In the first half against Florida, the Gators seemed to have no trouble with the elite ball pressure of South Carolina. Sure, they turned the ball over, but they also connected on 14 of their first 25 shots from the field. In the second half, that changed. UF went on to make just seven of their next 25 attempts as USC clamped down and did what it does best. The Gamecocks forced 16 turnovers and held KeVaughn Allen to 4-of-12 shooting. Meanwhile, Sindarius Thornwell came through again on the offensive end as South Carolina did exactly what it has done all tournament long: cover up the opponent’s hoop, get 20+ points from Thornwell, and find enough help elsewhere to push the team to the next round. It seemed that the Gamecocks benefited greatly from playing in their home state for the first set of games, but their shot has continued to travel across state lines. There are no more excuses for why they have kept winning. All the evidence is on the court.
In the Final Four, South Carolina is going to face its toughest test yet. Gonzaga is one of the premiere defensive teams in the land. It is an argument for which of these teams is better on that end of the court. Because of that, and because of the size that Gonzaga can bring to multiple positions, USC will need an elite performance from two guys: Thornwell, as always. He has to have yet another big game to carry the offense along. The other is Chris Silva. As the Gamecocks’ main inside presence, he has to be huge against a formidable front line. Foul trouble for Silva is likely a death sentence to Carolina’s season. It wouldn’t have the depth up front to overcome. For the Bulldogs, they are coming off their best game of the tournament but will find it difficult to keep the hot shooting going. Instead, baskets will come from the big guys posting in the paint. The reason this team is so good is because it can play and succeed in so many different avenues.
In an NCAA Tournament where numerous teams have choked away a final possession or coughed up the ball or threw up a terrible prayer of a final shot, the North Carolina Tar Heels, without need of their final timeout, calmly ran down the court, got dribble penetration from Theo Pinson, who found the open man, made the correct pass, and saw Luke Maye hit the game-winning jumper to send UNC to the Final Four. North Carolina didn’t need to draw up something convoluted. It didn’t even need the ball in one of its best player’s hands. Instead, the team just made the correct basketball play, and Maye came through with the winner. Before that final shot, the Tar Heels held Malik Monk in check, controlled the glass, and got well-balanced scoring from their entire roster. It was the blueprint that got them this far. It has now gotten them to the Final Four for the second consecutive season.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, it has been quite a while since the Oregon Ducks have made it this far in the NCAA Tournament. Not since 1939 had Oregon reached a Final Four. It took everything it had this time to get here, plus a little luck. Oregon dominated in some aspects of its Elite Eight match against Kansas. In other ways, it was fortunate to grab victory. The Ducks controlled the defensive end thanks to the herculean effort of Jordan Bell (throwing up an 11, 13, 4, 8 stat line like it was no big deal); they also gave up a ton of open looks, especially down the stretch, that Kansas flat-out missed. Josh Jackson was in foul trouble early for the Jayhawks and didn’t even score until 11 minutes remained in the game. And Devonte Graham didn’t make a field goal the entire contest. Even still, KU was within six in the final minutes. Oregon wasted numerous possessions and was bailed out with miracle threes on others. If not for the unending clanking of Kansas’ outside shot, Oregon would have added another year to its Final Four drought.
After seeing what UNC was able to get from its fourth-best interior player, Oregon has to be worried. No other team in the country rolls as deep at Carolina on the front line. And the depth is incredibly talented. Oregon may have the best pure frontcourt player in this matchup in Jordan Bell (though that is obviously up for debate). But after Bell, the Ducks play small. It wasn’t a problem against Kansas, who is even smaller. It will be a huge problem against North Carolina. This is the match where the absence of Chris Boucher is really going to hurt. This is the game where Kavell Bigby-Williams will need to see the court and function. Bell can control the paint and the glass against most opponents. He can’t do so by himself against the Tar Heels front. On the wings, Oregon should be looking to dominate, but it won’t be that easy. Justin Jackson just had a huge performance on the stat sheet, as well as defensively against one of the best shooters in college basketball. His likely matchup against Dillon Brooks is a game-changer. The same goes for the point guard battle between a hobbled Joel Berry and Tyler Dorsey. These are all pairings that Oregon needs to win because the Ducks have too much ground to make up near the bucket. UNC is coming off of an average performance where it defeated a 2-seed to reach another Final Four. That tells you all you need to know about the ceiling of that team.