March Madness Final Four: The Road To Phoenix

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On Saturday April 1, the men’s basketball teams of South Carolina and Gonzaga will tip off to start the Final Four, the pinnacle of college basketball success. Following them will be North Carolina going up against Oregon.

While some of the teams this year were favored heavily, other teams had a snowball’s chance in Haiti to be playing on Saturday. With that being said, here are the Final Four teams paths throughout March:

North Carolina. After the graduation of star guard Marcus Paige last season, the Tar Heels have begun to put the ball into the hands of Justin Jackson, a 6’8″ shooter, who has dominated this season while becoming a 2017 Consensus All-American. This has allowed the Tar Heels of this season to be very similar to the ones that lost on a buzzer-beating shot in the finals to Nova’ last season.

After suffering tough losses early in the season to teams like Indiana, Kentucky, Duke, and Virginia, the Tar Heels began to improve their game and rose in the rankings. Seeming destined for an ACC Tournament banner to be in their resume, Duke found a way to win the Battle of the Blue, and the season series, over North Carolina.

Still, UNC would end up a top seed in the South Region, where they would bulldoze into the Elite Eight before facing the tough Kentucky Wildcats. The game was in the final seconds when a jump-shot would give the Tar Heels a 75-73 win and a punched ticket to Phoenix, Arizona.

Oregon. The Ducks had been consistently ranked within the top ten for most of the season, but they were often overshadowed by their fellow Pac- 12 Conference member Arizona, who beat the Ducks in the Pac- 12 Final.

But this Oregon team is not one to forget, with Forward Dillon Brooks and Guard Tyler Dorsey, the Ducks have scraped their way to Phoenix. Although they had an astonishing win over third-ranked Kansas, 74-60, there was a large chance the game may never have happened. After barely making it past the Rhode Island Rams 75-72, the Ducks pulled off a big win against the hot Michigan Wolverines, 69-68. These wins have been their biggest tests all season, and have shown the Oregon Ducks are battle-ready.

Gonzaga. The mutts have finally made it, after being a perennial candidate to no avail, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are in the Final Four. After only suffering one loss to rival BYU, Gonzaga has fought their way past tough teams like Northwestern and West Virginia, while then defeating Xavier, an 11-seed, in the Elite Eight.

The Bulldogs are ranked high for a reason, but the teams they have faced throughout the year may be the only concern with this team. Their schedule has not been overly difficult; the only true question lies within their ability to beat the best teams in the nation, during the biggest of moments.

South Carolina:.The “bracket buster” South Carolina Gamecocks — a team with losses to Seton Hall, Clemson, Memphis, Alabama (twice), and Arkansas — have now taken down the likes of Duke, Baylor, and Florida, for a chance to win it all in Phoenix. If you did not see that coming, join the club.

The Gamecocks are the antithesis of Gonzaga; whereas Gonzaga has won many games to lower ranked opponents, South Carolina has lost many games, often to low-ranked opponents. But they have proven themselves in the big moments, with wins over teams ranked high in the nation. The Gamecocks will come in with nothing to prove, and only a lot to gain from this Cinderella Story

 

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