The irony in this match-up is rather fascinating. Gonzaga – traditionally perceived as a Cinderella mid-major program – is now a No. 1 seed. Mark Few has truly built the tiny school out of Spokane into a powerhouse not only out West, but also nationally.
Though it hails from a major conference, South Carolina is this year’s darling. The No. 7 seed upset the likes of Duke, Florida, and Baylor en route to the program’s first-ever Final Four appearance.
When looking at this contest, it’s clear both teams are good on the defensive end of the floor. Frank Martin’s program prides itself on getting in the opponent’s face. South Carolina is long, active, and is eerily similar to some of Ben Howland’s old UCLA teams.
Gonzaga will be the best offensive team USC has faced throughout the tournament. Cal transfer Jordan Mathews can stroke it from deep, Nigel Williams-Goss is the unquestioned orchestrator of the offense, and a deep frontcourt featuring Johnathan Williams, Przemek Karnowski, and Zach Collins figures to test Martin’s team.
South Carolina has been relying heavily upon star guard Sindarius Thornwell. Averaging over 20 points per game in the tournament, he’s simply been fantastic.
While the Gamecocks enjoyed a home-court advantage during the first two rounds, this match-up will be played in Phoenix. As a result, plenty of Gonzaga fans are expected to make the trek South for the game.
The guard battle will be imperative in this contest. We all know about the brilliance surrounding Williams-Goss and Thornwell, but the complementary pieces within the backcourt are also big-time X-Factors.
Mathews has averaged 14.5 points per game throughout the tournament. The vast majority of his looks come from beyond the three-point line. He’s also been adept at getting to the line. As for South Carolina, PJ Dozier has been a very good No. 2 scorer next to Thornwell.
He’s averaging 15.3 points a contest, and has also been very good as it pertains to rebounding. The 6’6” sophomore will have to produce versus the ‘Zags – who can also turn to the three-pronged attack up front for points. Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar are capable of scoring – and will need to do so in this contest.
Silva and Kotsar also have to stay out of foul trouble. South Carolina doesn’t have an exceptionally deep bench – opting to play mostly guards in the second unit. Gonzaga will likely try and get Karnowski established early. A good passer out of the post, his effectiveness on the block enables shooters to get good looks. Karnowski won’t beat anyone with his athleticism, but his sheer size makes him a handful to defend against.
South Carolina will yet again be an underdog in this contest. Many will say the Gamecocks aren’t as deep or as offensive inclined as their counterparts. With that said, there’s something brewing with this team. Martin has them playing with a ton of confidence and energy, and one can rest assured that they will be ready for the No. 1 seeded Bulldogs on Saturday evening.
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