The Caroli­nas and Paci­ficNorth­west get to­gether for unique run to crown

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By John Mar­shall

The As­so­ci­ated Press

glendale, ariz. » The Fi­nal Four is set, with one blue­blood and three new­bies headed to the desert to set­tle the NCAA Tour­na­ment.

North Carolina has been there, done thatwith col­lege bas­ket­ball’s fi­nal week­end, reach­ing the ti­tle game last year. Ore­gon is here for the first time since win­ning its only ti­tle in 1939, while Gon­zaga and South Carolina are mak­ing their first ven­tures this deep in­toMarch Mad­ness.

It should be a great week­end and to get you ready, we’ve got the teams, play­ers, coaches and matchups to keep an eye on at Univer­sity of Phoenix Sta­dium:

Top play­ers

Nigel Wil­liams- Goss, Gon­zaga. First- team Al­lAmer­i­can shuts down the op­pos­ing team’s best player, runs one of the na­tion’s most ef­fi­cient of­fenses, su­perb leader. Sin­dar­ius Thorn­well, C South Carolina. Phys­i­cal, scores, re­bounds, de­fends. May not be any­one play­ing bet­ter in the tour­na­ment. Dil­lon Brooks, Ore­gon. Plays with an edge, usu­ally comes close to cross­ing it. Al­ways finds a way to make a big play. Justin Jack­son, North Carolina. Long, ath­letic, shoots in­side and out, causes night­mares for op­pos­ing coaches try­ing to figure out how to stop him.

Coaches

Roy Wil­liams, North Carolina. The dean of col­lege bas­ket­ball coaches. And dadgum it, one fiery south­ern gen­tle­man. Frank Martin, South Carolina. The big man in the big suit is known for his fiery de­meanor and stareright­through- you eyes on the side­line. Also hap­pens to be a good coach and one of the most loyal peo­ple in the sport. Mark Few, Gon­zaga. The mon­key off his back— along with the dogs and cats— he has the bas­ket­ball acu­men and the team to take the Zags to their first na­tional ti­tle. Dana Altman, Ore­gon. Qui­etly known as one of the na­tion’s best coaches for years, he’s proven it dur­ing the Ducks’ run to the Fi­nal Four.

The teams

Gon­zaga. Fi­nally over the Fi­nal Four hump, the Zags are ready to take two more steps and add a ti­tle to their ré­sumé. North Carolina. Vet­eran, mul­ti­tal­ented, been here be­fore more times than the other teams com­bined. A clear fa­vorite.

The top 10

South Carolina. These Game­cocks are gamers. Al­ready took out three of the top four seeds in the East Re­gion for their first NCAA Tour­na­ment wins in 44 years, ready to make the trip even more spe­cial. Ore­gon. The Ducks may have lost a key player with Chris Boucher’s ACL in­jury, but they’re tal­ented enough to be a player in the na­tional cham­pi­onship race. Just ask Kansas.

Key matchups

Ore­gon’s de­fen­sive re­bound­ing vs. North Carolina. The Tar Heels clean up 42 per­cent of their missed shots with of­fen­sive re­bounds. Ore­gon was 180th na­tion­ally in de­fen­sive re­bound­ing. South Carolina vs. Gon­zaga’s front­court. Zags cen­ter Prze­mek Karnowski is per­haps the big­gest big in the coun­try at 7- foot- 1, 300 pounds. Zach Collins is a 7- 0 leaper. Game­cocks front­courters Maik Kot­sar and Chris Silva give up at least 3 inches and a whole lot of poundage to Karnowski. The Pol­ish big man also is an adept passer, so South Carolina will have to be care­ful with the game- plan­ning. Pace game, Ore­gon vs. North Carolina. The Tar Heels like to play fast— score- five- sec­onds- af­ter- a- missed- freethrow fast. The Ducks, de­spite their rep­u­ta­tion as an up- tempo team, play at an ad­justed tempo that was 241st na­tion­ally. Con­trol the pace, win the game. Gon­zaga from 3, South Carolina guard­ing it. The Game­cocks are stel­lar at de­fend­ing the 3, hold­ing op­po­nents to the eighth- low­est per­cent­age ( 30.1) in the coun­try. The Zags don’t ex­actly rely on the 3— they were 275th na­tion­ally at 26 per­cent of their made shots— but have four play­ers who made at least 40 shots from the arc this sea­son.

Fi­nal Four

SATUR­DAY In Glendale, Ariz. No. 1 Gon­zaga vs. No. 7 South Carolina, 4: 09 p. m., KCNC- 4 No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Ore­gon, 6: 49 p. m., KCNC- 4

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