The NCAA Tournament has had its share of memorable moments.
Kentucky and North Carolina reminded us why they are two of the most prestigious programs in history.
Wisconsin and Florida put on the game of the year and reminded us all why we watch and/or play the game.
Teams like Rhode Island, Arkansas, Xavier, and Michigan showed that seeding is only a number.
And then there were four.
What we have left is a conglomerate of things we never knew we wanted, but after looking at them closer realize that there may be nothing better.
The only saying goes something like, “dance with what brung ya,” and despite some surprising names being present in this year’s Final Four, the participants really shouldn’t shock you.
The Oregon Ducks shocked everyone when they decided to destroy the Kansas Jayhawks in the Elite 8.
We know that Dillion Brooks and Tyler Dorsey are the NCAA’s best backcourt, but that wasn’t what got them here (although Dorey’s outrageous scoring numbers are helping).
Jordan Bell is a name that you are going to hear a lot this weekend, especially if he does to North Carolina what he did to Kansas.
Bell, a junior who was a bench player until Chris Boucher tore his ACL earlier this month was known for his energetic, athletic style of play, but no one saw him as a viable replacement to Boucher.
11 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 blocks later everyone in the United States knew about him and the Jayhawks vaunted lineup was quaking in their locker room at the mention of his name.
The Jayhawks attempted just nine shots inside the paint during the second half.
They did take 18 shots from outside of it though, including 13 threes (of which they made one).
Not when you find out that Oregon blocks more shots from a percentage standpoint than any other team in America. They return almost 11 percent of their opponents shots per game.
Which should be fun because their Final Four opponent has a strength that should either lead to more blocks or some highlight reel, poster dunks.
The North Carolina Tarheels got here on two things.
A bailout buzzer beater.
And the fact that they are college basketball’s best offensive rebounding unit.
They grab boards on 41 percent of their missed shots.
The Tarheels are the product of the tournaments death bracket, a region that featured Kentucky, UCLA, and Purdue and three AP All-American first teamers.
They haven’t done anything overly special as far as North Carolina standards are concerned, but they returned a lot of players from last year’s team that walked away from last year’s National Title game in a fog of sweat, tears, and shock after Kris Jenkins and Villanova won the title in the second greatest game ever played in the NCAA tournament.
This team is big, mean, and hungry for redemption.
Josh’s pick: North Carolina over Oregon, 78-76 in overtime.
At this stage of my opinion I will be admitting that I am in unfamiliar waters right now.
I routinely cheer for the underdog, but my normal underdog isn’t one, and it would be nice to see a local team win.
I also have a certain proclivity towards fun names and Sindarius Thornwell has the coolest name of all the players remaining in the field, sorry Prezmek (pronounced Shem-eck) Karnowski, as a fellow Polak, I am used to the confusing ways the letter Z is used and am more irritated with them than impressed.
Back to my dude Thornwell and his South Carolina Gamecocks though.
Thornwell has spearheaded an offensive attack that had only sporadically appeared during the regular season, but during the tournament he has been its leading scorer at 26 points per game and is probably going to be taking home Most Outstanding Player.
But surprisingly, despite the impressive 77 points per game they are scoring, it isn’t their offense that wins them games.
It is having the second ranked defensive efficiency rating in the country.
This team flat out doesn’t allow their opponents to score with regularity, only giving up .896 points per possession (for example UCLA gives up exactly one point per possession).
An average NCAA game has 72 possessions, so say we put UCLA against the Gamecocks in nothing but the defensively efficiency stat UCLA would lose that game 72-65 (actually 64.512, but who’s counting).
That means an awful lot when you start playing the big time scorers in the latter stages of the tournament.
I mentioned that South Carolina number two in defensive efficiency, you may be curious as to who number one is?
Well that honor belongs to none other than your Gonzaga Bulldogs.
In the same contest as we did between South Carolina and UCLA, if you do it between Gonzaga and South Carolina the Bulldogs win that game 65-61 (60.624 to be exact).
So take all of that stuff from above about how important not giving up points is and change it to Gonzaga.
Despite that impressive stat you have to take into account who they played in their league schedule.
Despite being regarded as the weakest basketball conference of the Power-5 conferences, the SEC is still stronger than the WCC in terms of competition.
Gonzaga has something that no one else has, and I don’t think any has had since the 2014/15 Kentucky Wildcats, and that is a 10 man rotation that has multiple 7-footers that they use regularly.
You wanna go small on the Zags?
They have a bevy of talented guards, led by All-American second teamer Nigel Williams-Goss, a veteran big man in Karnowski, and the ultimate matchup nightmare in Jonathan Williams.
They don’t let you score because they are big bullies and in turn they can snipe you from outside, finesse you in the post, and cram it down your throat with a vicious dunk.
And that is just the three players I mentioned.
Ah… they are going to the bench for a breather, finally we’ll make up some ground.
Zack Collins is coming in to replace Karnowski.
Silas Melson, Josh Perkins, and Jordan Mathews will pick up where Goss left off.
It is neverending.
I like South Carolina and their run has been awesome, but unless Gonzaga pulls a Northwestern on us they are not losing on Saturday. Gonzaga wins over South Carolina 65-61.
And you know what?
I think I like the Zags over North Carolina too...