#7 South Carolina vs. #1 Gonzaga
Saturday 6:09 PM, CBS
Player to Watch: Sindarius Thornwell (Tournament Averages: 26.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists)
Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell has been an absolute monster for the Gamecocks as they have won their four tournament games. Thornwell has been doing a little bit of everything and a whole lot of scoring for Frank Martin’s defensive oriented team. Gonzaga is better off focusing on stopping the other four guys on the court because it seems like a lost cause to try and stop Thornwell.
X Factor: PJ Dozier
Sindarius Thornwell has been the MVP but the Gamecocks would not be here if PJ Dozier wasn’t playing his best. Dozier has been a great sidekick to Thornwell scoring double digits in each game including 17 points in their Elite 8 win over Florida. Dozier needs to continue to score on the offensive end and guard multiple positions on the defensive end.
Player to Watch: Nigel Williams-Goss (Tournament Averages: 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists)
Nigel Williams-Goss is one of the most underrated guards in the country. The transfer from Washington has found his groove in Mark Few’s system and has blossomed into a highly productive player. Williams-Goss is a top notch defender and rebounder which leads to fast breaks with him pushing the ball after a rebound. America will get a glimpse of what we have seen all season, which is a talented guard that is versatile. Mark Few can matchup Nigel against either Sindarius Thornwell or PJ Dozier in hopes of shutting down the Gamecocks.
X Factor: The Role Players
Usually I pick out a player that can hinge the success of his team but Gonzaga has a number of players that can step up. The Zags are special because of their versatility and role players. They have had a number of players step up through their first four tournament games. Jordan Matthews, Josh Perkins, Zach Collins, and Jonathan Williams have all had great games to help the Zags get to the Final Four. If Mark Few can get one of those guys hot against South Carolina it could be the difference in the game.
Match-Up to Watch: Mark Kotsar vs. Zach Collins and Przemek Karnowski
Estonian freshman must step up down low to contain the Gonzaga big men. 5th year senior Przemek Karnowski is a load down low and is due for a breakout game in the Final Four. His scoring and passing out of the post puts the second ranked defense in a very tough spot. Kotsar and the Gamecocks allowed skilled big man Jonathan Motley to put up 18 points when they faced Baylor in the Sweet 16. If South Carolina can hold Collins and Karnowski to a combined 20 points that would be a victory for Kotsar and their defense. If Collins and Karnowski can have their way, it will get them easy baskets and open looks for shooters.
Key Stat: 3 pointers
Gonzaga is coming off a game where they made 12 three pointers and shot at a 50% efficiency. South Carolina shot 20% from deep only making 2 shots. If Gonzaga makes 12 threes the game will be over and they will be in the National Championship. If South Carolina shoots 20% from deep they will be sent home. The key ingredient to watch is that these teams are not used to playing in a football stadium. Shooters have struggled to adjust to the new environment with the different back drop, elevated floor, and environment that comes with the Final Four being in a football stadium.
Prediction: Gonzaga 68, South Carolina 63
Gonzaga has more offensive fire power than South Carolina and these are the top 2 defenses in the country so I give the nod to Gonzaga. Spokane is also a shorter flight than South Carolina so the Zags should be well represented.