South Carolina is easily the most-surprising of the 2017 Final Four participants. They ended their SEC conference schedule on a down note, losing 6 of their last 9 games, and getting into the tournament based on earlier results. And this is the reason why few expected the Gamecocks to make any noise during March Madness.
But here we are nearing April, and South Carolina is the tournament’s only Cinderella left. Victories over 10-seed Marquette, 2-seed Duke, 3-seed Baylor, and 4-seed Florida have earned them a trip to Phoenix.
Their opponent is Gonzaga, which finally exercised some demons by booking a trip to the Final Four. Of course, it should be little surprise that the Bulldogs have made it this far since they’ve only lost one game, and have been in or around the nation’s top ranking all year.
Gonzaga’s road to the Final Four hasn’t been as tough as South Carolina’s, winning over 16-seed South Dakota State, 8-seed Northwestern, 4-seed West Virginia, and 11-seed Xavier. But the Bulldogs fended off potential upsets and are one step closer to winning the title.
Who will win and move into the title game to play the winner of Oregon/North Carolina? Which team will cover their spread? Find out as we discuss everything you need to know regarding the Bulldogs and Gamecocks.
No. 7 South Carolina (26-10) vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (36-1); Friday (April 1 @ 6:05pm)
GTBets.eu Betting Line: South Carolina +7 (-110); Gonzaga -7 (-110)
Why the Gamecocks will Cover their +7 Spread
As mentioned in the introduction, nothing has been easy for South Carolina. Few expected them to get past Duke in the second round, but they pulled off an 88-81 upset. Then they made things look easy against Baylor, winning 70-50.
Beating Florida for a second time this season? No problem for a South Carolina team that’s exceeded expectations throughout the tourney.
Based on what the Gamecocks have done so far, it’s not outside the bounds to think that they could also knock off the Zags. Gonzaga is a little better overall than Duke, Baylor, and Florida, but they’re not an insurmountable task.
The key for South Carolina is making sure that their stars are on. This isn’t a deep team, so they need guards Sindarius Thornwell (21.6 PPG) and P.J. Dozier (13.8 PPG) to step up. This was certainly the case against Florida, as Thornwell hit 8-of-13 shots while scoring 26 points, and Dozier make 7-of-11 shots to score 17. Others who played well against the Gators include Chris Silva (13 points, 9 rebounds) and Maik Kostar (12 points).
The problem – as it’s been all season for South Carolina – is that they only got 3 points off their bench. Additionally, they played four of their starters for 36 minutes or more, meaning there’s little firepower outside of the core players.
Thornwell and Dozier have been great in the tournament so far. If they’re both on again, and get some help from another starter or two, then this team can make an improbably championship appearance.
From a betting standpoint, South Carolina is 4-0 against the spread (ATS) in their last four games. But in the 10 contests prior to March Madness, they were just 1-9 ATS.
Why the Bulldogs will cover their -7 Spread
Over the past two decades, Gonzaga has transformed from a little-known basketball school into a powerhouse that makes the tournament every year. But the only thing missing from the Bulldogs’ resume until now was a Final Four appearance. They’ve taken care of this bit of history and are now looking at more if they can get past a less-heralded South Carolina team.
As we discussed earlier in the year, this is the most-complete team we’ve seen from Gonzaga. The dilemma in years’ past was always that they relied on one pro-level talent to score big, including Adam Morrison, Kyle Wiltjer, and Domantas Sabonis. But this season, the Zags have several players who can score and can absorb 1-2 starters having an off-night.
The leading scorer is point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (16.7 PPG, 4.6 APG), while Przemek Karnowski (12.2 PPG), Jordan Matthews (10.7 PPG), Jonathan Williams (10.3 PPG), Zach Collins (9.9 PPG, 1.6 BPG), and Josh Perkins (8.2 PPG) also make significant contributions. Basically, this Bulldogs team is everything that the Gamecocks aren’t.
Last weekend, we saw Gonzaga end Xavier’s season with emphasis, thumping this Cinderella 83-59. Their depth was on full display, as four players scored in double figures, and they got a solid 14 points off the bench. There’s a good chance that they’ll dominate South Carolina and end their season as well.
From a betting perspective, the Zags are 1-2-1 ATS in March Madness. In their last 9 games before the tourney, they were 7-2 ATS.
Final Thoughts on South Carolina vs. Gonzaga Betting
This game features two teams playing in their school’s first-ever Final Four. On one side, you have a South Carolina team that relies on two stars in Dozier and Thornwell to carry them. Meanwhile, Gonzaga has a solid starting five along with support from the bench. Based on the Bulldogs’ depth, we see them overwhelming the Gamecocks while using their strong defense to force Dozier and/or Thornwell into a poor-shooting game.
Final Score Prediction: Gonzaga wins 83-69