The Final Four is set, and Gonzaga has finally broken through. How can they keep it rolling against the physical, battle-tested South Carolina Gamecocks?
Looking at the Final Four seedings and teams, it would appear the Gonzaga Bulldogs caught another break. After easily ousting 11th-seeded Xavier in the Elite Eight, Gonzaga will face seventh-seeded South Carolina.
This is not to say that the Gamecocks can be overlooked. To reach their first-ever Final Four, South Carolina had to wear down Florida in the Elite Eight, blow out Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen, and overcome mighty Duke in the second round. They wrecked brackets (including mine) across the country for a reason.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin used an extended zone approach, which in combination with his team’s physical, mean attitude, stifled Florida in the second half. The Gators shot 0-for-12 from three-point range in the period.
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So despite their low-ish seed, South Carolina will be a test yet again for the Bulldogs. The most trouble Gonzaga has had in the NCAA Tournament was from West Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen, a team noted for its defense and its tendency to run a full-court pressure system.
If Gonzaga head coach Mark Few can get his players, particularly his guards–Nigel Williams-Goss and Jordan Matthews–to avoid turnovers, South Carolina, led by SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell, won’t be able to pull away. And with the way Gonzaga players have shown up at crucial points in all of their March Madness games so far, they should be able to arm-wrestle South Carolina and come out ahead.
This Final Four matchup between two teams playing with chips on their shoulders could be one of the most compelling games in yet another NCAA Tournament full of upsets and dramatic finishes. If South Carolina wants to hang with the number-one seed, it will have to clamp down and keep the game low-scoring. For Gonzaga to advance to their first-ever National Championship game, they’ll have to block out the noise and find a way to score. The game is a week from today.