Final Four: Gonzaga vs South Carolina preview

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

First Time at the Final Four 

It's fitting that the 2017 Final Four is in Phoenix. In 1999, Gonzaga shocked the college basketball world. The then, “mid-major” stunned Florida in at then U.S. Airways Center in downtown Phoenix to advance to the Elite 8. UCONN would end the Zags' run in the Elite 8 that year. Who knew at the time that it would take Gonzaga another 18 years for the Zags to finally break through?

“I thought over this run of 20 years that we’d probably have three or four,” says Gonzaga coach Mark Few. “We wanted to stay nationally relevant.  And I think we’ve done that year after year. And that’s probably what I’m most proud of. And then eventually you’ll kick the door in and break through like we did this year.”

Few started an assistant at Gonzaga in 1989. His counterpart, South Carolina coach Frank Martin, was coaching high school and teaching math at that time in Florida. Martin still tries to approach his job like he’s teaching math.

“I’m an educator,” says the South Carolina coach. “My job is not to pay attention to the scoreboard, my job is to help them become better human beings in life.”

The Match-up

Martin did not have the leading scorer on Thursday. SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell wasn’t feeling well. His 21.6 points a game spark the Gamecocks offense. Defense is South Carolina's strength, with Chris Silva’s 48 blocks to lead the defense.  

Before three weeks ago, South Carolina hadn't won an NCAA Tournament game since 1972. The Gamecocks were picked eighth in the SEC preseason poll and the underdog status has served as motivation the entire season.

“We saw where we were,” says Gamecocks sophomore guard P.J. Dozier. “We didn’t pay too much attention to it because we weren’t really happy.”

The Gamecocks have forced an average of 17 turnovers in 4 NCAA games. They’re outscoring their opponents by an average of 13.5 ppg.

Gonzaga has a considerable size advantage with 6-foot, 300-pound Przemek Karnowski, 7-foot freshman Zach Collins and 6-9 forward Johnathan Williams.  Guard Nigel Williams-Goss, a Washington transfer, was named to the Wooden All-American team. South Carolina is ranked 2nd nationally in defensive efficiency.  Gonzaga is ranked first.

Prediction

65 South Carolina 60 Gonzaga 

Fear the Beard

Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski has become a cult hero in college basketball. 

His beard is a popular social media topic and Poland native spent a considerable amount of time discussing the beard on Thursday. 

https://twitter.com/MarkMcClune/status/847537892381642754

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