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South Carolina

vs.

Gonzaga

Final 4

College Basketball

Pick

4/1/17

This isn’t what most people predicted, but this Final Four matchup between two first-time teams cannot be considered lucky by any means. South Carolina and Gonzaga will battle it out in Glendale for a chance to play in the NCAA championship. The Bulldogs opened as -6.5 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

Gonzaga only has one loss, but the more interesting stat for them is that it has been favored in every game this season. The problem is that the Zags have only covered one of their last four and two of their last six. Having been an underdog in their last three games and only -1 point favorite in the first round, the Gamecocks have obviously been better against the spread.

This game is going to be a battle in the truest sense. Gonzaga is No. 1 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency and South Carolina is No. 2. Playing in the weaker WCC, the Bulldogs may have had it slightly easier, but while their defense hasn’t been as impressive as South Carolina’s in this tournament, it’s still been one of the best. Starting with Gonzaga’s defense, the major things will be limiting Sindarius Thornwell and keeping Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar in check in the paint. Thornwell has been unstoppable in the last four games, already with 103 points, but maybe more importantly 32 of those came from the free-throw line. Both Baylor and Florida had decent defenders that could match up Thornwell, but that didn’t matter.

Gonzaga will get the next shot at Thornwell with Jordan Mathews and Silas Melson seeing the majority of time on him. If that doesn’t work, the Bulldogs could go big and throw the 6-foot-9 Johnathan Williams on him, but that seems unlikely. Williams will be needed along with Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins down low in limiting what the Gamecocks can do with Kotsar and Silva. Those guys made a big difference in the paint against Florida, but against a couple 7-footers, that may not happen in this game.

Elsewhere, the Gamecocks have just been better all around in the tournament as compared to the regular season. Backup guard Rakym Felder has hit another level, while Duane Notice and PJ Dozier have been more consistent along with Silva. One thing that South Carolina hasn’t seen is a backcourt as big as Gonzaga’s, at least on the defensive end. Nigel Williams-Goss will be key in limiting what guys like Felder, Dozier and Notice can do on the perimeter, but also help in pick-and-rolls with Thornwell. The same can be said of Perkins, Mathews and Josh Perkins.

On the other end, the Gamecocks have been absolutely suffering opposing teams, but Gonzaga is one of the few teams in the country that can beat you at four different spots on the floor. Karnowski is unmatched down low, but the more athletic Collins could be more useful in this game. Williams-Goss hasn’t had the greatest tourney, but has been Gonzaga’s best player all season. Then there’s their best shooter in Mathews and last game’s playmaker Williams, who had 19 points. South Carolina has been able to win through suffocating defense on the perimeter and limiting easy looks to the post, but against guards with size and two 7-footers down low, it won’t be easy.

Of course, South Carolina didn’t care about Baylor’s size in the Sweet 16, but the Bears were a much different team limited by an offense built around two guys at most. Gonzaga has gotten here through multiple options offensively and a great defense. If the Gamecocks don’t get the same production they’ve been getting outside of Thornwell, this is going to be a tough game to cover. But if they keep up the play that has lead them to wins over Marquette, Duke, Baylor and Florida, then there’s no reason South Carolina can’t win. It’s just going to be a bit harder on both ends of the floor to get that win.

Our Pick - South Carolina +6.5

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