5 things to watch for at the Final Four
1. First timers
It is a guaranteed that a first-time Final Four squad will play for the title Monday. That’s because neither No. 1 Gonzaga nor No. 7 South Carolina has ever advanced this far.
Could a first-time team bring home a title over a more experienced crew like No. 1 North Carolina or No. 3 Oregon? Frank Martin, head coach of the Gamecocks thinks so.
“Once the game starts, I think everything is irrelevant. Everyone’s nervous,” he said. “I don’t care, you can play in the national championship game nine years in a row, if you go the 10th time, you’re going to be nervous before the ball goes up in the air.”
2. Future NBA stars
Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey has averaged 24.5 points per game on 66.7 percent shooting in the NCAA Tournament and is lethal from beyond the arch.
South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell is the front-runner for the Most Outstanding Player netting 25.8 points per game — best in the tourney.
UNC has a handful of future NBAers led by Justin Jackson and Joel Berry, while Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss could be playing himself into first-round pick territory.
3. The coaches
Martin was once the angry, red-faced former coach of Kasas State, but he has turned into a master motivator and recruiter. UNC’s skipper Roy Williams has two titles under his belt while Oregon’s Dana Altman burst onto the national scene after success coaching Creighton when it was a midmajor.
And of course finally is Gonzaga’s Mark Few, who has been to 18-straight NCAA Tournaments with the Bulldogs.
4. The favorites
The Tar Heels are big favorites to win it all. Most of the key parts of last year’s team are here, with Berry leading the offense like a true point guard and Jackson providing a high-volume scoring approach that is hard to stop. They also have size and experience in senior big men Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks.
5. Anything can happen
History has shown that while the big-name favorites are usually favored, there is a reason why the games are played. Especially with such conflicting styles of play.
It’s not a seven-game series, it’s one and done. And with one chance to win it all, sometimes the best team isn’t the last one standing.
Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss could be a first-round pick.