[B][I]Gamecocks’ Thornwell misses practice
March 30, 2017[/I][/B]
South Carolina star Sindarius Thornwell missed practice on Thursday due to illness, just two days before the Gamecocks face top-seeded Gonzaga in the Final Four.
The senior guard remained back at the team hotel and didn’t participate in the media interview session at Phoenix.
“He had a little body temperature last night when we landed,” coach Frank Martin said. “He was a little better this morning. I just told our trainer to just feed him fluids, let him rest.”
Martin said that Thornwell won’t be affected by the missed practice due to his vast experience.
Thornwell averages 21.6 points and 7.2 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Gamecocks. He was named SEC Player of the Year and has been even better in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 25.8 points in four games while being named Most Outstanding Player of the East Regional.
Date Matchup Score ATS Result
Mar. 15 Utah Valley (+4.5, ML +170) at Georgia Southern 74-49 Underdog-Under (156.5)
Mar. 15 Loyola-Maryland (+10, ML +450) at George Mason 73-58 Underdog-Under (141)
Mar. 15 Hampton at Coastal Carolina (-9) 83-67 Favorite-Over (145)
Mar. 15 Toledo at George Washington (-6) 73-69 Underdog-Under (146.5)
Mar. 16 Stony Brook at Illinois-Chicago (-2.5) 71-69 Favorite-Under (147)
Mar. 15 Green Bay at Missouri-Kansas City (+1.5, ML +110) 92-82 Underdog-Over (169)
Mar. 15 San Francisco at Rice (-1.5) 85-76 Favorite-Over (154.5)
Mar. 15 Eastern Washington at Wyoming (-4.5) 91-81 Favorite-OVer (163)
[B]QUARTERFINALS AND SEMIFINALS[/B]
Date Matchup Score ATS Result
Mar. 20 Loyola-Maryland at Coastal Carolina (-5.5) 72-63 Favorite-Under (141)
Mar. 20 George Washington at Illinois-Chicago (+6, ML +220) 80-71 Underdog-Over (149)
Mar. 20 Utah Valley (+4.5, ML +175) at Rice 85-79 Underdog-Over (162)
Mar. 20 Missouri-Kansas City at Wyoming (-9.5) 72-61 Favorite-Under (171.5)
Mar. 22 Illinois-Chicago at Coastal Carolina (-4.5) 89-79 Favorite-Over (153.5)
Mar. 22 Utah Valley at Wyoming (-4) 74-68 Favorite-Under (159.5)
Date Matchup Score ATS Result
Mar. 27 Wyoming at Coastal Carolina (+1) 91-81 Underdog-Over (153.5)
Mar. 29 Coastal Carolina at Wyoming (-7.5) 81-57 Favorite-Under (156.5)
Mar. 31 Wyoming at Coastal Carolina – –
[/B]Date Matchup Score ATS Result
Mar. 13 Norfolk State at Liberty (-7) 73-64 Favorite-Over (131)
Mar. 14 St. Francis, PA (+4, +165 ML) at Jacksonville 78-76 Underdog-Under (157.5)
Mar. 14 Houston Baptist at Campbell (+1.5, +105 ML) 98-79 Underdog-Over (150.5)
Mar. 14 Canisius at Samford (-3.5) 78-74 Favorite-Under (164)
Mar. 15 Ball State at IUPUI Fort Wayne (-4.5) 88-80 Favorite-Under (171)
Mar. 15 Fairfield at Maryland-Baltimore County (-3) 88-83 Favorite-Over (153)
Mar. 15 Georgia State at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (+3, ML +135) 80-64 Underdog-Under (146.5)
Mar. 15 Stephen F. Austin at Idaho (-4.5) 73-50 Favorite-Under (138.5)
Mar. 16 Lamar at Texas State (-9.5) 70-60 Favorite-Under (135.5)
Mar. 16 St. Peter’s (+2, ML +110) at Albany 59-55 Underdog-Under (121.5)
Mar. 16 Furman (-6.5) at South Carolina-Upstate 79-57 Favorite-Under (148.5)
Mar. 16 UNC Asheville at Tennesse-Martin (+5, ML +180) 89-75 Underdog-Over (151)
Mar. 16 Weber State (+2.5, ML +120) at CS Fullerton 80-76 Underdog-Over (148)
SECOND ROUND AND QUARTERFINALS[/B]
Date Matchup Score ATS Result
Mar. 18 St. Francis, PA at Maryland-Baltimore County (-6.5) 87-79 Favorite-Over (165)
Mar. 20 Tennessee Martin at Campbell (PK) 73-56 Favorite-Under (149)
Mar. 20 Samford at Liberty (-1.5) 66-58 Favorite-Under (140.5)
Mar. 20 Weber State at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (-1.5) 82-73 Favorite-Over (150.5)
Mar. 22 Idaho at Texas State (-5) 64-55 Favorite-Under (131.5)
Mar. 25 Furman (-6) at Campbell 79-64 Favorite-Over (141)
Mar. 25 St. Peter’s (+1) at Texas State 49-44 Underdog-Under (120)
Mar. 26 IUPUI-Fort Wayne at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (+1.5, ML +115) 78-62 Underdog-Under (162.5)
Mar. 26 Liberty at Maryland-Baltimore County (-2.5) 80-68 Favorite-Over (145.5)
[B]SEMIFINALS & FINALS[/B]
Date Matchup Score ATS Result
Mar. 29 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (+1) at Maryland-Baltimore County 79-61 Underdog-Over (156)
Mar. 29 Furman at St. Peter’s (-3.5) 77-51 Favorite-Over (123.5)
Mar. 31 St. Peter’s at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi – –
The 2017 NCAA Tournament started with 68 schools and after two weeks, the field is down to four. This year’s final quartet will feature three schools making the Final Four for the first time since the tournament expanded.
Also, it will have an East Coast vs. West Coast feel as Gonzaga and Oregon will look to knock off South Carolina and North Carolina respectively.
The University of Phoenix Stadium at Phoenix, Arizona will host the semifinals on Saturday Apr. 1 with the winners meeting in the championship game on Monday Apr. 3.
Listed below is the latest future numbers from the Westgate Las Vegas Super Book, plus the odds on each school when they opening in April of 2016 and their pre-tournament odds.
[B]ODDS TO WIN NCAA 2017 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP[/B]
(Seed) School Opening Odds (4/5/16) Pre-Tournament Odds (3/12/17) Final Four Odds (3/26/17)
(1) Gonzaga 80/1 10/1 7/5
(1) North Carolina 15/1 6/1 8/5
(3) Oregon 20/1 25/1 4/1
(7) South Carolina 200/1 200/1 8/1
[B][I]Final Four Primer
March 28, 2017
The 2017 Final Four will feature a blue blood from Tobacco Road (North Carolina), a pair of newcomers (South Carolina and Gonzaga) and a school that hasn’t ventured into this territory since 1939 (Oregon).
The Gamecocks had lost six of their previous nine games entering the Tournament and hadn’t heard their name called on Selection Sunday since Dave Odom was their coach in 2004. They trailed at halftime in three of their four Tourney games and hadn’t been victorious in a Tourney contest since 1973 before beating Marquette in the Round of 64.
The Ducks lost their starting center and one of the nation’s best rim protectors (Chris Boucher) in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. The Tar Heels trailed by five against Arkansas in the Round of 32 with less than three minutes left, while the ‘Zags had been denied entry into the national semifinals despite their presence in 19 consecutive Tourneys, 18 of which had come since Mark Few took over at the school based out of Spokane, WA.
This is what happens in March when form rarely holds and unexpected occurrences rule the day more often than not.
Since I was in New York City watching USC at Madison Square Garden all weekend, let’s start with Frank Martin’s team. I was introduced to Martin, the former assistant coach at Miami Senior High School to legendary prep head coach ‘Shaky’ Rodriguez, in the summer of 1991 at Daytona Mainland Beach High School.
I was playing on an AAU team based out of the Big Bend Region (Tallahassee, Florida, and beyond 60 or so miles in three directions). We were playing Miami Senior’s AAU team, but I guess ‘Shaky’ let his assistants do the coaching during the summer, so Martin was the head man for this game.
As I sat about 15 rows behind South Carolina’s bench on Sunday, there were moments in which I could hear his beaming voice despite the presence of a sold-out crowd of more than 20,000 fans at the greatest basketball venue on this planet. Therefore, you can imagine how loud he could be heard in a high-school gym in Daytona while still cutting his teeth at the prep level.
Just as I’ve said on radio and written many times recently and over the past several years, I thought Martin was a home-run hire for USC when the school snatched him away from Kansas State. Martin saw what Steve Spurrier saw in Columbia – great facilities, a rabid fan base, but little-to-no expectations based on basically zero success over decades upon decades of mediocrity.
And that’s probably why Martin was still around for a fifth season despite failing to get an NCAA Tourney invite in four straight years. Kansas State didn’t miss a beat under Martin when Bob Huggins bolted back to his old West Virginia home. He had the Wildcats in the Elite Eight in his third season at the helm.
Martin won at least 21 games in all five of his seasons at K-State. He took the school to four NCAAs and one NIT, never once getting ousted in the first round. Therefore, I was at a loss for why it was taking him so long to get it going at South Carolina, especially at a time when the SEC was down — really down if your name wasn’t Kentucky or Florida.
And it wasn’t as if he wasn’t thriving on the recruiting trail. Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice and P.J. Dozier were wanted by a plethora of big-name schools, but chose South Carolina ahead of them all.
Thornwell and Notice are the senior leaders of this team. Thornwell garnered Most Outstanding Player of the East Region after bullying his team into the Final Four with a combination of skill, power, leadership and desire. In short, he has been nothing shy of sensational in the 2017 Big Dance.
Trailing Florida by seven at intermission Sunday at MSG, Thornwell quickly got his team going in the second half. We should note also that Martin stuck with Thornwell despite getting his second foul with more than six minutes left in the first half, in addition to his third fairly early in the second half. Nevertheless, he still played 36 minutes because Martin knew he could trust his senior.
When the Gators sliced the deficit to two with 51 seconds remaining, I guess Thornwell had trust in Notice as he precariously moved closer to being whistled for a five-second call on an inbounds pass. In this situation, you don’t want to make a high-risk entry pass, but nobody was open and Notice opted to go long.
Thornwell heaved a dangerous length-of-the-floor baseball pass to the streaking Notice. It appeared as if he had overthrown him or that the ball might hit the backboard. Notice made an amazing catch and at this point in the story, we’re supposed to look past the fact that he clearly travelled (perhaps twice?) as he caught the ball.
Alas, regardless of the lack of a whistle, it worked out perfect for USC. Instead of being called for a walk, which would’ve given UF the ball down two with 51 seconds and a chance to go 2-for-1, Notice gathered the catch, took a few dribbles and was fouled. He made both free throws, UF missed and fouled again, and it was time for the fat lady to take the microphone.
Thornwell scored 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the 77-70 win over UF as a three-point underdog. Dozier added 17, while Chris Silva produced 13 points and nine rebounds in only 21 minutes of action due to foul trouble.
USC has won a pair of games by 20 points (over Marquette and Baylor) and outscored Florida and Duke by 14 points apiece in the second half en route to comeback victories.
No other team comes to Glendale with more confidence. Waiting for USC will be the ‘Zags, who as of Tuesday were listed as 6.5-point favorites. The total was 138, while the ‘Cocks were +250 on the money line (risk $100 to win $250).
Gonzaga shredded its mid-major label long ago, well before Butler, Wichita State and VCU did the same. The Bulldogs made their splash on the national scene with Casey Calvary’s game-winning putback to beat Florida in the 1999 West Region semifinals. They haven’t gone anywhere since, except, of course, to the Final Four.
Butler, Wichita State and VCU have made the national semifinals since then, while the original mid-major turned power program was unable to get over that hurdle. Call it a coincidence if you wish, but Gonzaga is finally in the Final Four in the same city (Phoenix/Glendale) where Calvary’s magic got the ball rolling in that direction.
Like Few said after a thrilling West Region semifinal win over West Virginia this past Thursday, he’s never given much thought to “any monkeys, dogs or cats” on his back for not making the Final Four during an iconic 19-year tenure that hasn’t once seen his team absent from the NCAA field. Whether that quote was factual or not, it’s irrelevant after Gonzaga absolutely dominated 11th-seeded Xavier in an 83-59 win Saturday night in San Jose.
It was the Bulldogs’ first spread cover of the Tournament as 8.5-point favorites. Few has had Final-Four talent a few times out of those 18 previous NCAA teams, but it’s been unanimous all year that this has been his best collection of talent ever. They have it all covered – a star in Nigel Williams-Goss, defense (ranked fourth in the nation), shooting (ranked second in the country), size (three seven-footers and five players standing 6’10” or taller), speed and experience.
Williams-Goss was the catalyst against the Musketeers, producing 23 points, eight rebounds, two steals, one block and four assists without a turnover. Johnathan Allen added 19 points, eight boards, three blocks and a pair of steals.
North Carolina is the lone No. 1 seed standing. A quarter-century after Christian Laettner crushed the hearts of the Kentucky faithful in the 1992 NCAA Tourney, UNC’s Luke Maye took his turn by draining an 18-foot jumper from the left wing with 0.3 seconds remaining to lift the Tar Heels to a 75-73 victory. Playing the role of Sean Woods circa ’92, UK’s Malik Monk had hit a fadeaway trey with 7.2 seconds remaining to tie the game.
The Tar Heels, who were beaten at the buzzer by Villanova’s Kris Jenkins in last year’s finals, remain alive in search of giving Ol’ Roy a third national title. Justin Jackson had 19 points, five rebounds and four assists in the victory over UK, while Maye contributed 17 points, three boards and two assists without a turnover in 20 minutes of playing time from off of the bench. Maye buried all three of his free throws, 6-of-9 attempts from the field and 2-of-3 launches from 3-point range.
Oregon was nearly ousted in the first weekend by Rhode Island. However, Tyler Dorsey wasn’t going to allow that to happen to Dana Altman’s team. Dorsey hit 9-of-10 shots, including 4-of-5 from downtown, against the Rams. With the Round-of-32 showdown tied with 11 seconds left, Dorsey buried a deep 3-ball to spark his team to the Sweet 16.
Facing red-hot Michigan at Sprint Center in Kansas City on Thursday night in the Midwest semifinals, Dorsey knocked down 5-of-7 from long distance en route to a team-high 20-point effort. Still, the Ducks advanced only after Wolverines’ senior star Derrick Walton, who had seemingly hit every big shot he took the entire month of March, left a potential game-winning triple just a tad short at the buzzer.
This left Oregon to take on top-seeded Kansas in what was essentially a road game in KC. After all, KU was playing at Sprint Center for the sixth time this season. The Jayhawks were favored by 6.5 points, but they were routed from the opening tip.
Guess who stole the show yet again? That would be Mr. Dorsey, the sophomore guard who has secured him and his family millions of dollars in future earning over the last few weeks. His amazing shooting pace was featuring again as he dropped 27 points on the Jayhawks. Dorsey made 9-of-13 from the field and 6-of-10 from beyond the arc.
Dillon Brooks added 17 points, five boards and four assists, while Jordan Bell was a monster in the paint. Bell tallied 11 points (5-of-6 FGs), 13 rebounds, four assists and EIGHT blocked shots.
As of Tuesday, UNC was listed as a five-point ‘chalk’ versus the Ducks, who are +185 on the money line (risk $100 to win $185). The total was at 151 points.
South Carolina and Gonzaga are scheduled to tip Saturday at 6:05 p.m. Eastern on CBS. UNC and Oregon will go off 30 minutes after the conclusion of the ‘Zags and ‘Cocks.
Listed below are the Steam Alert Fast Facts from the 2017 Playbook Sweet 16 Guide.
Enjoy them, and may the best teams win.
Final 4 Fast Facts – Saturday
Best and Worst ATS records in the Final 4 round[/B]:
— Dogs off 4 consecutive ATS wins (South Carolina) are 4-13-1 ATS
— Favorites off a win of 20 or more points (Gonzaga) are 1-5 ATS
— Favorites of 4 or more points who scored 80 or more points in the Elite 8 round (Gonzaga) are 2-8 ATS
— Teams who win the game SU are 44-7-1 ATS
Final 4 Team Seed Facts – Saturday
Best and Worst Team team seed records in the Final 4 round:
— No. 1 seeds (Gonzaga and North Carolina) are 5-1 ATS
— No. 3 seeds (Oregon) are 4-1 ATS
— No. 5 or lower seed (South Carolina) dogs of less than 7 points are 0-6 ATS
[B]Final 4 Conference Records – Saturday
Best and Worst conference records in the Final 4 round: [/B]
— ACC teams (North Carolina) are 7-2 ATS
— Pac-12 dogs (Oregon) of more than 3 points are 3-0 ATS
— SEC teams (South Carolina) are 1-5-1 ATS
— Combined scores of Gonzaga/Oregon (-1.5) over combined scores of the two Carolina schools.
— First half lines: Gonzaga -3.5, North Carolina -2.5
— Will South Carolina win national title? Yes +$800, No -$1,200
— Will North Carolina win national title? Yes +$150, No -$170
— Will Oregon win national title? Yes +$500, No -$700
— Will Gonzaga win national title? Yes +$160, No -$180
[SIZE=4][COLOR=”#A52A2A”][B]Armadillo: Saturday’s List of 13: Baseball knowledge for April Fools’ Day……… [/B][/COLOR][/SIZE]
13) Last time Washington Nationals won 90+ games in consecutive years, they weren’t the Nationals- they were the Montreal Expos and it was 1979-1980. Washington was 95-67 last year.
12) Last year was first time in four years Pittsburgh missed the playoffs; someone has to remind me why the Colorado Rockies fired Clint Hurdle- damn good manager.
11) Atlanta Braves started 9-29 last year, were 37-35 after the All-Star Game; they were 29th in runs scored, 30th (last) in home runs.
10) Braves went all of last season without a lefty pitcher starting a game; that will change quickly this year- they added Jaime Garcia from the Cardinals, who I think will be their #3 starter.
Last lefty pitcher to start a Braves game? Manny Banuelos, in September, 2015.
9) Mets finished 5th in home runs LY, but tied for 25th in runs scored- they were 23rd in on-base %age. New York stole 42 bases; their opponents stole 135 against them.
8) One way for the Tigers to move up in the standings? Do better against Cleveland. Detroit was 4-14 against the Tribe last year- they finished 86-75, eight games behind the Indians.
7) Phoenix Suns started a lineup Thursday night that was younger than most of the college teams that played in the Sweet 16 that night.
6) Giancarlo Stanton has played 123 or fewer games four of last five years; Marlins desperately need him to stay healthy- they were 13th in on-base %age last yer, but 27th in runs scored, and Stanton can produce runs in a hurry.
5) Phillies play in a small ballpark, a bandbox, a hitters’ paradise; how in the name of Mike Schmidt did they finish last in runs scored? Their pitchers were 26th in ERA.
4) Chicago Cubs started six guys age 25 or younger in postseason last year; they’ve added Wade Davis as their new closer. Who plays centerfield is probably their biggest ??? entering this season.
3) St Louis Cardinals were 74-45 LY when they hit a home run, 12-31 when they didn’t.
2) Cincinnati Reds used 52 players last year, 12 of whom were making their major league debuts. Five of those 12 were starting pitchers.
1— In nine years since Barry Bonds retired, Giants have used one different left fielders on Opening Day- they’ve used 25 LF’s overall since then, who combined to knock in 585 runs, least by any team’s left fielders during that time.
[B]S CAROLINA (26 – 10) vs. GONZAGA (36 – 1) – 4/1/2017, 6:05 PM [/B]
Top Trends for this game.
S CAROLINA is 10-21 ATS (-13.1 Units) in road games after a conference game over the last 3 seasons.
GONZAGA is 23-9 ATS (+13.1 Units) in all games this season.
GONZAGA is 23-9 ATS (+13.1 Units) in all lined games this season.
GONZAGA is 7-1 ATS (+5.9 Units) when the total is 130 to 139.5 this season.
GONZAGA is 23-9 ATS (+13.1 Units) as a favorite this season.
GONZAGA is 15-5 ATS (+9.5 Units) after scoring 80 points or more this season.
GONZAGA is 13-4 ATS (+8.6 Units) in road games in tournament semi-final games since 1997.
GONZAGA is 16-5 ATS (+10.5 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
S CAROLINA is 16-7 ATS (+8.3 Units) in non-conference games over the last 2 seasons.
S CAROLINA is 41-23 ATS (+15.7 Units) in road games versus good offensive teams – scoring 77+ points/game after 15+ games since 1997.
Head-to-Head Series History
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.
[B]OREGON (33 – 5) vs. N CAROLINA (31 – 7) – 4/1/2017, 8:45 PM [/B]
Top Trends for this game.
OREGON is 2-10 ATS (-9.0 Units) in a neutral court game where the total is 150 to 154.5 since 1997.
N CAROLINA is 293-240 ATS (+29.0 Units) as a favorite since 1997.
N CAROLINA is 165-130 ATS (+22.0 Units) in non-conference games since 1997.
OREGON is 22-13 ATS (+7.7 Units) in all games this season.
OREGON is 22-13 ATS (+7.7 Units) in all lined games this season.
OREGON is 10-3 ATS (+6.7 Units) on Saturday games this season.
OREGON is 38-22 ATS (+13.8 Units) in road games after allowing 60 points or less since 1997.
OREGON is 17-9 ATS (+7.1 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
OREGON is 24-11 ATS (+11.9 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games over the last 2 seasons.
OREGON is 7-1 ATS (+5.9 Units) versus good offensive teams – scoring 77+ points/game after 15+ games this season.
OREGON is 12-3 ATS (+8.7 Units) versus good offensive teams – scoring 77+ points/game this season.
Head-to-Head Series History
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.
Saturday, April 1[/B]
[B]South Carolina at Gonzaga, 6:05 PM ET[/B]
South Carolina: 12-5 UNDER when the total is 130 to 139.5
Gonzaga: 11-3 ATS after 2 straight games with 9 or less offensive rebounds
[B]Oregon at North Carolina, 8:35 PM ET[/B]
Oregon: 19-8 ATS after having won 8 or more of their last 10
N Carolina: 13-4 UNDER after 2 straight games outrebounding opponent by 10 or more
Saturday, April 1[/B]
Over last 30 years, teams seeded 7th or worse are 3-6-1 vs spread in national semifinals- South Carolina forces turnovers 25.4% of time (#4 in country)- they have two really good seniors leading a team that is otherwise very young. Gamecocks were 3-6 in their last nine games before NCAA’s. Gonzaga is 2-0 vs SEC teams this season, beating Florida by 5 in Orlando, Tennessee by 12 in Nashville. South Carolina/Gonzaga are both in Final Four for first time. WCC teams are 2-5-1 vs spread this postseason, 2-3-1 when favored; SEC teams are 9-7-1 vs spread, 5-0-1 as an underdog. Since 2005, #1 seeds are 7-5 vs spread in national semifinal games when facing a non-#1-seed.
Since ’05, #1 seeds are 7-5 vs spread in national semifinal games when facing a non-#1-seed. North Carolina is 16-2 outside ACC; they lost national title game at buzzer LY. Tar Heels are #112 experience team that plays pace #50- they’re 5-4 vs top 20 teams this season. Oregon is in Final Four for first time since 1939; they’re #154 experience team that plays pace #241. Ducks are 15-2 outside Pac-12, 4-2 vs top 20 teams. Oregon is 12-1 in its last 13 games, losing Pac-12 final to Arizona. ACC teams are 6-15-1 vs spread this postseason, 4-11-1 if favored; Pac-12 teams are 8-6-1 vs spread, 3-1 if an underdog. This is where not having 6-10 shot blocker Boucher could hurt Oregon- they played six guys vs Kansas, just aren’t as deep as the Tar Heels.
[SIZE=”3″][B][I][B] NCAA Tournament Final Four betting preview and odds: South Carolina vs Gonzaga [/B][/I][/B][/SIZE]
[I] Sindarius Thornwell – “Why not us? Why not go win it all? And that’s our mindset. We feel like we can compete with anybody right now in the country.”[/I]
[B](7) South Carolina Gamecocks vs (1) Gonzaga Bulldogs (-7, 138)[/B]
[I]Game to be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.[/I]
Top-seeded Gonzaga and seventh-seeded South Carolina are both part of the Final Four for the first time in school history and the winner of Saturday’s NCAA Tournament national semifinal contest in Glendale, Ariz. will face either North Carolina or Oregon in Monday’s championship game. Gonzaga lost one game all season to enjoy the top campaign in program history while the Gamecocks overcame a poor end to the regular season with an electric tournament run that included an upset of Duke.
South Carolina’s superb run has been fueled by star senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, who missed Thursday’s practice with an illness but insisted earlier in the week that his squad isn’t satisfied with the unprecedented success that includes a school record for victories. “We’re not going to settle for this and we still feel like, we got one more game,” Thornwell said at a press conference. “Why not us? Why not go win it all? And that’s our mindset. We feel like we can compete with anybody right now in the country.” Gonzaga no longer will have to hear about never reaching the Final Four and senior shooting guard Jordan Mathews is glad about that. “The Final Four doesn’t validate or discredit a season,” Mathews told reporters. “It’s not an end-all, be-all. Gonzaga has been a great program, and we’re just happy to keep carrying the torch.”
TV:[/B] 6:09 p.m. ET, CBS
LINE HISTORY:[/B] The No. 1 seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs opened as 6.5-point favorites and by Thursday evening that spread crept up to -7. The total hit the betting board at 138 and has been stable all week.
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (26-10 SU, 15-16-2 ATS, 14-18-1 O/U):[/B] Thornwell averages 21.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the East Regional after averaging 25.8 points in the Gamecocks’ four tourney wins, including 26 points in the 77-70 victory over Florida in the regional final. Sophomore guard PJ Dozier (13.8 scoring average) and senior guard Duane Notice (10.2, team-best 67 3-pointers) are forces on the perimeter while sophomore forward Chris Silva (10.1 points, 5.9 rebounds) is the Gamecocks’ top inside player. Coach Frank Martin preaches tenacious defense and South Carolina allows 64.9 per game – limiting third-seeded Baylor to 50 in a 20-point trouncing in the Sweet 16.
ABOUT GONZAGA (36-1 SU, 23-9-2 ATS, 16-18 O/U):[/B] Junior point guard Nigel-Williams Goss (16.7 average, 4.6 assists) has been a difference-maker and scored 23 points in the 83-59 rout of Xavier that catapulted the Bulldogs into the Final Four. Williams-Goss, a standout defender with a team-best 64 steals, is averaging 15.5 points in the NCAA Tournament but is just 19-of-61 shooting from the field. Senior center Przemek Karnowski (12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds), Mathews (10.7 points, 79 3-pointers) and junior power forward Johnathan Williams (10.3 points, team-leading 6.6 rebounds) also score in double digits.
* Gamecocks are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games overall.
* Bulldogs are 16-4-2 ATS in their last 22 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Over is 8-1 in Gamecocks last 9 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Over is 6-1 in Bulldogs last 7 vs. Southeastern.
CONSENSUS:[/B] 55 percent of users are taking the points with the Gamecocks and the Over is picking up 58 percent of the totals wagers.
[SIZE=”3″][B][I][B] NCAA Tournament Final Four betting preview and odds: Oregon vs North Carolina [/B][/I][/B][/SIZE]
[I] “Their offensive rebounding numbers are off the charts, so we have to do a great job on the boards,” Oregon coach Dana Altman told reporters.[/I]
[B](3) Oregon Ducks vs (1) North Carolina Tar Heels (-5, 152)[/B]
[I]Game to be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.[/I]
North Carolina is hoping for another chance to finish the job in the NCAA Tournament and Oregon looks to ride the momentum of its deepest run since 1939 when the teams meet in the national semifinals Saturday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Ariz. While Oregon reached the Final Four despite losing a key player to injury in the Pac-12 tournament, the Tar Heels return for the second straight year after having their hearts broken in the title game.
“I think our kids really used it a great deal as motivation during the offseason,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams told reporters of the 77-74 loss to Villanova in the final. “Once we started practice, you know, you’re putting together a team then, and I’d make reference to it periodically … about what’s the most fun you’ve had, just remind them, because everybody said it was the run to the national championship game last year.” The Tar Heels hope to have a healthy Joel Berry II (two sprained ankles) to run the show against the Ducks, who have been led by the hot shooting of sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey and some solid defense despite being without 6-10 senior Chris Boucher (knee) since the Pac-12 semifinal. North Carolina needed a last-second jumper from reserve Luke Maye to beat Kentucky 75-73 while Oregon held Kansas to 35 percent shooting in a 74-60 victory at the Elite Eight last weekend. “We’re just staying in the moment, enjoying it and having fun,” Ducks guard Casey Benson told reporters. “… We have a real opportunity to be a national championship team.”
TV:[/B] 8:49 p.m. ET, CBS
LINE HISTORY:[/B] North Carolina opened the betting week as 4.5-point favorites and the spread was bumped slightly to 5 on Thursday. The total hit the board at 150 and rose steadily all week to the current number of 152.
ABOUT OREGON (33-5 SU, 21-15-1 ATS, 17-20 O/U):[/B] The Ducks have done a decent job on the boards this season (plus-4.2 margin), but will need to raise that level higher against the Tar Heels: “Their offensive rebounding numbers are off the charts, so we have to do a great job on the boards,” coach Dana Altman told reporters. Dorsey has been nicknamed “Mr. March” by his teammates, scoring at least 20 in seven straight games while averaging 24.5 in the tournament and making 17-of-26 from 3-point range. Junior Jordan Bell stepped up his game in Boucher’s absence, averaging 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in the NCAAs after blocking eight shots against Kansas.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (31-7 SU, 18-15-3 ATS, 14-21-1 O/U):[/B] Maye, a former walk-on, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the South Regional after scoring 17 against Kentucky and is averaging 12.5 in the first four games of the tournament. Junior swingman Justin Jackson, the ACC Player of the Year, is averaging 19.8 points in the NCAAs but will need the talented Berry (14.6 overall) to provide him room to operate although the junior point guard is 6-for-26 from behind the arc in the Big Dance. Senior forward Kennedy Meeks, who is averaging 13 rebounds in the tournament after hauling in a career-best 17 against Kentucky, will play a big role against Oregon’s physical lineup.
* Ducks are 11-2 ATS in their last 13 games as an underdog of 0.5-6.5.
* Tar Heels are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 vs. Pacific-12.
* Under is 4-1 in Ducks last 5 neutral site games as an underdog.
* Under is 10-2-1 in Tar Heels last 13 games following a straight up win.
CONSENSUS:[/B] 54 percent of users are taking the points with the Oregon Ducks and the Over is picking up 74 percent of the totals wagers.
[B][I]Things to Watch at Final Four of the NCAA Tournament
April 1, 2017[/I][/B]
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Some things to watch for in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday:
MEN IN THE MIDDLE: Seven-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski is Gonzaga’s center and he will be matched up with 6-10 Maik Kotsar of South Carolina.
Karnowski, a senior, averages 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field. Kotsar, a freshman, averages 5.8 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Karnowski has been battling a back issue.
”It was mostly my lower back, maybe a little bit going to my legs,” he said. ”Basically any movement where my disc had pressure was painful. Just going every day to the practice facility was a big challenge for me.”
With two big men going at it, it won’t be easy to officiate inside.
”Obviously I’m bigger than 99.9 percent of the players in the NCAA,” Karnowksi said. ”I just try to play through that and whatever happens I cannot complain. The referees always talk and I want to see their perspective. At the same time I don’t want to go emotional. I want to stay in the game and stay dialed in.”
[B]BACK AGAIN:[/B] North Carolina has a chance to leave this Final Four with a better result than last season’s last-second loss to Villanova in the championship game.
”I think the offseason was the biggest part where we felt like we had unfinished business,” All-America forward Justin Jackson said. ”Now we’re here for Oregon. And we don’t look past that or anything. We’re focusing on Oregon. And I think the whole unfinished business or revenge, I don’t know how you can have revenge on a team that wasn’t the person that took it from you. And so for us, we’re just trying to focus on Oregon and that’s it.”
[B]COACHING EXPERIENCE:[/B] This is North Carolina coach Roy Williams’ ninth Final Four, six more than the other three coaches combined.
”We had a chance to talk a little bit last night,” Williams said of the four coaches. ”But the good thing is that I consider those three guys friends before this happened, guys I have a ton of respect for.
”And then let’s be honest, I’ve coached at two pretty good places. I’ve coached at Kansas and North Carolina. And it’s not easy to get here, but it’s easier at those two places, and I’m not trying to be humble, I’m being what I think is truthful. It’s easier to get here with coaching at the places I’ve been coaching. I don’t pat myself too much about that.”
[B]HEALTH ISSUES:[/B] South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell, the Southeastern Conference player of the year and the tournament’s leading scorer with a 25.8 average, practiced Friday after missing it the day before because of illness.
”I’m going to share this with you, but he said to me last night, Man, I feel like I'm letting everyone down,''' South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. ''I said,Huh? What is wrong with you? Letting who down? The game’s Saturday. You’ll be all right, man.’
”But that’s just who he is. He feels that our guys practiced and he was not there to help them. That’s who he is. But he’s in good spirits. I’ve been giving him a hard time all morning, because I know he doesn’t like it, that the rest of us worked yesterday and he laid around in bed and watched TV.”
North Carolina’s Joel Berry II, the point guard for the high-octane offense, has been battling ankle issues. He practiced Friday and is expected to play Saturday.
”I don’t think there was ever a thought in our mind that he wasn’t going to play, just the type of guy that he is,” Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Justin Jackson said. ”But it does give us more confidence knowing that he’ll be out there with us.”
[B]FIRST TO 80:[/B] The North Carolina-Oregon game should be one where both teams try and get out and run, a lot.
Oregon averages 78.9 points per game while the Tar Heels average 85.0 points, scoring 80 or more 26 times, 90 or more 17 times and over 100 six times.
”We’ve got to limit their touches in the paint as much as we can, which is a very difficult task since they run so many things to get the ball inside,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. ”We’re going to have to do a tremendous job defensively to try to keep the ball out of there a little bit.”
[B][I]Tar Heels have spent years building to Final Four moment
April 1, 2017[/I][/B]
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) When North Carolina takes the court for Saturday’s Final Four game against Oregon, the Tar Heels will lean on a lineup filled with upperclassmen who have played together for years and know exactly what to expect.
They’ll know how to manage the pressure awaiting on college basketball’s biggest stage. There will be no surprises about playing in a massive football stadium that can make for some tricky depth perception when launching a shot.
That makes the Tar Heels – who played to the final night before losing last year’s title on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer – a bit of a throwback in a time when blueblood programs frequently have young rosters and a revolving door of one-and-done talents or transfers.
”It’s big,” junior Justin Jackson said. ”Nothing really can break us apart honestly. We’ve seen everything. We’ve been through everything.”
Take a look at UNC’s roster, and that experience stands out. The Tar Heels (31-7) have started at least four upperclassmen in all but one game this year, while the current starting quintet is three juniors and a pair of seniors.
Behind that is a senior in Nate Britt, who can play either guard position.
And of that group, three players – Jackson, fellow junior Joel Berry II and senior Isaiah Hicks – were on the court for Villanova’s walk-off 3-pointer in the title game. And Jackson (112), Berry (74) and senior Kennedy Meeks (115) all have at least 70 career starts.
”They have an advantage because they’ve been here and know what to expect,” Oregon guard Dylan Ennis said. ”However, we also have an advantage because we want to taste playing in a national championship game.
”Just because they’ve been there doesn’t mean they’re going to win it, and we’ve got that underdog mentality.”
North Carolina’s growth has also come because there hasn’t been a lot of unexpected roster turnover in the previous four seasons.
UNC hasn’t lost a transfer since 2011. Only three players have left early in the previous four seasons to pursue professional careers – Reggie Bullock in 2013, James Michael McAdoo in 2014 and J.P. Tokoto in 2015 – while a fourth (P.J. Hairston) was lost after two seasons due to NCAA violations.
What’s left is a cohesive group that has played a ton of games together and has stayed loose even in the most pressure-packed of moments.
”Just everybody gets along and everybody understands the task at hand, and that’s winning national championships,” junior Theo Pinson said. ”We understand we have the best chance here of doing that. And we just do our best of getting along with each other and accepting everybody and being ourselves.”
The other variable is the lack of one-and-done talent. While Kentucky, Duke and Kansas have had a steady stream of players who arrive as top-tier NBA prospects before they’ve ever played a college game, UNC hasn’t brought in one of those candidates since Harrison Barnes in 2010 – partly due to the academic scandal that has hung over the school for years and raised the possibility of eventual NCAA sanctions.
Coach Roy Williams pointed out Friday he has tried to recruit many only to come up missing on those targets in recent years.
”I’d love to have a great mix, would be my best choice – to have guys that you think are going to be around three or four years,” Williams said ”But you always like to have that talent of the one-and-dones as well.
”When you play golf some guys like to hit a draw, some guys like to hit a fade, you’re still trying to get to the middle of the fairway. That’s the way it is in basketball; you choose how you can recruit successfully and try to stick with that and try to get the best players you can that are willing to make those sacrifices.”
Ask current players about the value of having a core group of players who developed together, and they’ll point to all the little things that become second nature without even being discussed.
Berry mentioned having veterans serve as examples to younger players on how to communicate with one another on the defensive end. For Pinson, it was as simple as knowing all about where one teammate is most comfortable catching the ball or how high another can get up to haul in a lob pass.
It’s an example why the Tar Heels are just fine with the status quo.
”There’s definitely some great teams with one-and-dones and stuff like that,” Jackson said. ”But for us, that works best.”
[B][I]Final Four notebook: North Carolina’s Berry to play with injured ankles
March 31, 2017[/I][/B]
That North Carolina point guard Joel Berry II would play Saturday wasn’t really an issue. His effectiveness, though, is going to be a mystery until the ball is in his hands against Oregon.
Berry has two injured ankles — he hurt his left one last weekend in an Elite Eight victory over Kentucky, adding to his previously sprained right ankle — and said Friday he’s at 85 percent.
“I don’t think there was ever a thought in our mind that he wasn’t going to play, just the type of guy that he is,” North Carolina wing Justin Jackson said. “But it does give us more confidence knowing that he’ll be out there with us.”
Berry averages 14.6 points and his ability to solve the Ducks’ multiple looks and occasional full-court pressure will be key in the second of the Final Four games Saturday in Glendale, Ariz. Gonzaga-North Carolina is set for 6:09 p.m. ET, followed by North Carolina-Gonzaga at 8:49 p.m. ET.
Berry, who has been limited in practice this week, said he was able to participate fully in Friday’s closed practice, adding he was a “little winded.” The more recent left ankle sprain has been more problematic this week.
“The bruising has gone away,” Berry said. “I can run on it now. I can do some more stuff than what I could a couple of days ago.”
— South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell, averaging 25.75 points in four NCAA Tournament games, missed Thursday’s practice because he was sick but said Friday his fever and headache were gone.
“He’s wired to compete. It killed him,” Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said Friday, talking about Thornwell missing practice.
“He said to me last night, ‘Man, I feel like I’m letting everyone down.’ I said, ‘Huh? What is wrong with you? Letting who down? The game’s Saturday. You’ll be all right, man.’
“But that’s just who he is. He feels that our guys practiced and he was not there to help them. I’ve been giving him a hard time all morning, because I know he doesn’t like it, that the rest of us worked yesterday and he laid around in bed and watched TV.”
–Oregon’s season hit a late speed bump when the Ducks lost to Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament championship game a night after losing shot-blocking forward Chris Boucher to a torn ACL.
The Ducks trimmed a 14-point second-half deficit to two with 24.7 seconds left but fell 83-80.
Instead of likely being the No. 2 seed in the West (as Arizona would be), Oregon dropped to No. 3 in the Midwest, having to knock off overall No. 1 seed Kansas in Kansas City to advance to the Final Four.
“They got a lot of points in the paint that night and got some easy shots that we typically don’t give up,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said of the loss to Arizona.
“But I think that losing a ballgame maybe refocuses you sometimes. But in this particular case, I think it just let us know that we were going to have to play a little differently without Chris, and we were able to make a few adjustments.
“But the big adjustment is Jordan Bell has played so well.”
In the five full games without Boucher, Bell has averaged 13.2 points and 12.0 rebounds while making 26 of 35 shots from the field (74.3 percent). The springy 6-foot-9 center blocked eight shots against Kansas.
Bell will be going against another interior force in North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks, a more traditional low-post player.
“He’s a good post player, very big,” Bell said. “He’s going to be very tough as far as keeping him off the boards and stopping them as a whole. … I think everybody is going to have to crack down on their bigs and really just get in there, help out with the rebounding.”
–Gonzaga shoots 50.9 percent from the field, which is second in the country to UCLA (52.2). But the top-seeded Bulldogs have hit just 43.2 percent in four NCAA Tournament games.
Now, they face a South Carolina defense that allows opponents to shoot 39.8 percent from the field (15th nationally) and 29.8 percent from 3-point range (seventh in the country).
“Obviously, everybody knows their defense,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, “but they’ve offensively been very good in this tournament and a little bit like Xavier in that way. We faced a really, really hot team in Xavier.
“Thornwell is a really, really hot player right now, as well as the other guys that seem to be playing as good as they’ve played all year together. And then just the intensity, the physicality, the athleticism that they bring on the glass, is a real concern.”
–This year’s Final Four teams trend older.
Gonzaga starts two seniors and two redshirt juniors. Thornwell, the highest-scoring player in the tournament so far, is one of two senior starters for South Carolina. North Carolina has three senior starters. Oregon has junior veterans in Bell and Dillon Brooks, and guard Dylan Ennis is a sixth-year player who is 25 years old.
The only potential one-and-done freshman among the teams is Gonzaga 7-foot center Zach Collins.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams, able to recruit at the highest levels, hasn’t had a one-and-done freshman since 2007.
“I would like to have some of those guys. I tried to recruit them, too, for us,” he said.
“I’d love to have a great mix, to have guys that you think are going to be around three or four years, but you always like to have that talent of the one-and-dones as well.”
He added that there is not just one way to go about recruiting.
“I do think that that’s what college basketball is,” Williams said. “It’s different guys having different ways to do things.”
–Gonzaga and South Carolina are Final Four rookies. It will be the first matchup of teams making their inaugural Final Four appearances since 1973 when Providence played Memphis.
–Gonzaga is second in the country in field goal percentage defense, allowing 36.5 percent shooting.
–Oregon, North Carolina, Kansas and Villanova are the only teams to have won 30 games in each of the past two seasons.
–South Carolina freshman forward Maik Kotsar, from Estonia, said his parents are traveling to Arizona to watch him play in college for the first time.
–It has been 20 years since a Pac-12 team (Arizona) won the NCAA Tournament. Oregon is the conference’s first Final Four team since UCLA in 2008.
[B][I]Oregon’s Bell is shot-blocking meme king
March 31, 2017[/I][/B]
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) There’s Jordan Bell blocking a young Michael Jordan. Now the Oregon big man is swatting the orca from Free Willy and E.T. flying on his bike. Next up is the Leaning Tower of Pisa, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un eating a cookie and the comet that killed the dinosaurs.
Jordan is blocking things everywhere, at least in the minds that created the ThingsBellCouldBlock Twitter account, and its namesake is loving it.
”At first I was, like, that’s cool, they made a picture about me, but then I kept it every day, every day, more memes,” Bell said. ”I think it’s crazy that someone made a fake Twitter account about me because that’s usually a fake LeBron account or a fake Steph Curry account. I never thought I’d have one and to see how many followers is crazy.”
The account started after fans began creating photos of Bell’s outstretched arm swatting away everything from Donald Trump’s hair to touching fingers with God in the Sistine Chapel.
The photo was from Oregon’s Elite Eight win over Kansas, a game in which Bell blocked eight shots to send the Ducks to the Final Four for the first time since 1939.
Bell has embraced the account in his name and his now-bigger role for Oregon.
The Ducks seemed to have their Final Four bid derailed in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, when senior forward Chris Boucher went down with a torn left ACL. The Ducks led the nation in blocked shots during the regular season and Boucher led them – along with the Pac-12 – so it seemed like a drop-off was coming.
Instead, Oregon made a few tweaks, leaned on Bell inside a little more and kept winning.
Always an intimidating force, the 6-foot-9, 225-pound junior has asserted himself even more while finding a way to avoid fouls. The Ducks need his presence at the rim, but also can’t afford to have him in foul trouble now that Boucher is out and he has done both well.
”He’s risen to the occasion,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. ”I think he knew when Chris went down that there was going to be more pressure on him to perform. And fortunately for us, he’s handled that pressure very well.”
A top recruit out of Long Beach, California, as a high school player, Bell had an immediate impact on the Ducks. He arrived in Eugene swatting shots, finishing first in the Pac-12 with 2.69 per game while shooting 59 percent from the floor.
Bell became Oregon’s career leader in blocked shots – 147 at the time – as a sophomore in his 50th career game and blocked 84 more this season. Heading into Saturday’s Final Four game against North Carolina, Bell leads Oregon with 8.6 rebounds per game, is its fourth-leading scorer at 10.9 points and is shooting 63 percent from the field.
Bell has been at his best when the Ducks have needed him the most, picking up his play even more in the NCAA Tournament.
He has upped his scoring average to 12.5 points and his rebounding to 12.5 while becoming the first players since Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon in 1983-84 to grab at least 12 rebounds in five straight NCAA Tournament games (spanning two seasons).
”I think I’m just probably playing harder knowing that I have to do more and knowing the stage we’re on and it’s win or go home,” he said. ”I don’t think I’ve been playing different, I think I’ve just been doing my role better.”
Bell’s stronger role also has a nice sidelight; it allows him to block nuclear weapons, the Hindenburg, LaVar Ball (the mouthy father of UCLA’s Lonzo Ball), and even Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl.