Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Date and Time: Saturday, April 1, 2017, 6:05 p.m. ET
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Final Four Odds at BookMaker.eu: Gonzaga -6.5, O/U 138
Gonzaga vs. South Carolina TV Coverage: CBS
When Gonzaga Has the Ball…
Had you told anyone that South Carolina was going to allow 73 or 81 or 70 points in any of its NCAA Tournament games as it did against Marquette, Duke and Florida respectively, most would have assumed that that would have been the end for one of the middling teams in the SEC. Yet in the end, maybe the most notable moment out of a press conference in the dance thus far came when a 13-year old kid asked Frank Martin whether attitude or technique was the most important part of defense.
Answer? Attitude. And that attitude had better be good against a Gonzaga team that can really put points on the board in bunches. The likelihood of having another 65-point second half like the Gamecocks had against Duke is slim to zilch, and the Bulldogs are going to keep scoring at will. They've got a huge size advantage in the paint in this one as they always do with both Johnathan Williams and Przemek Karnowski. The former is starting to really take over as the primary big man for this team, and though that's a bit of a switch from what we're used to seeing, Williams is the more athletic big man, and that's making this a lot more dangerous of an offense.
When South Carolina Has the Ball…
It's easy to look at what the Gamecocks have done thus far on offense and assume that Sindarius Thornwell has dominated. He has, and he's the top scorer in the tourney to date, but he's had a lot of help. The generally inconsistent P.J. Dozier has four double-digit scoring games in a row, as does Chris Silva, a man who averaged under 10 points per game coming into the Big Dance.
For our money though, these Zags are at their best this year because of their defense. They rank No. 4 in the nation in points allowed at 60.9 points per game and are No. 2 and No. 4 in the land in field goal percentage allowed and three-point shooting percentage allowed. No, they didn't have to go up against Arizona in the Elite Eight as most of us were expecting to be the case, but they did absolutely smother Xavier at that stage, something that could perhaps be a sign against a second straight team that has overachieved greatly to get this far in the dance.
The X Factor
The one thing that has gotten Gonzaga into some trouble in this tourney has been turnovers. It's understandable to have 16 turnovers against West Virginia, but to average almost 13 per game this deep into the tourney is a bit troublesome. When South Carolina had that great comeback against Duke and the 65-point half, Martin was quick to say that it was often defense that turned into offense, and that could be the case in this one as well.
Thornwell has obviously been fantastic offensively, but he also leads this team with 2.2 steals per game. It's strange to think that the X-Factor of this game could be the defense from a man who averages 21.4 points per game, but that might very well be the case.