20. That is how many Final Four appearances North Carolina, Oregon, Gonzaga and South Carolina had between them before last weekend.
Oregon won the first NCAA men’s basketball championship in 1939. That is the Ducks lone Final Four appearance. North Carolina made up the rest with 19 Final Four appearances while Gonzaga and South Carolina have yet to play a Final Four game.
We all know about the Gamecocks season. Here is what you need to know about the three other teams going to the desert.
Season: 36-1 - West Coast Conference champions - West Region 1-seed
USC Common Opponents: Florida (77-72 W), Tennessee (86-76 W).
Road to Final Four: (16) South Dakota State, (8) Northwestern, (4) West Virginia, (11) Xavier.
Since graduating from Oregon, Mark Few has been on the Gonzaga sideline. After a decade as an assistant, Few got the main job in 1999. Few has led the Bulldogs to NCAA tournament every single season. After one Elite 8 run and five Sweet 16 appearances, he finally has Gonzaga in the Final Four.
Like the Gamecocks, Gonzaga is a tough defensive team. The Bulldogs are allowing 60.9 points per game, good enough for fourth in the nation. They are also the sixth best rebounding team in the nation with 40.9 rebounds per game. At 83.2 points per game, they are the 10th highest scoring team in the country. Efficiency is key as they shoot the second best field goal percentage in the nation at 50.9 percent.
Gonzaga has four players averaging double figures on the season. Nigel Williams-Goss (16.7), Przemak Karnowski (12.2), Jordan Mathews (10.7) and Johnathan Williams (10.3) all start for the Bulldogs. They also get a spark off the bench from Zach Collins. The freshamn 7-footer averages 9.9 points per game.
Williams-Goss has struggled so far in the tournament. He only scored 9 against South Dakota State before scoring 20 against Northwestern. He was held to only 10 points by West Virginia before breaking out for 23 against Xavier last round. He is shooting only 31 percent from the floor though. Karnowski has also struggled. The 7-footer has only played more than 20 minutes once this tournament and is averaging 9.2 points and just 3.8 rebounds per game. Mathews has hit double figures in every tournament game so far, averaging 11 points per game.
Season: 33-5 - Pac-12 regular season champions - Midwest region 3-seed
USC Common Opponents: Alabama (65-56 W), Tennessee (69-65 W), Baylor (66-49 L).
Road to the Final Four: (14) Iona, (11) Rhode Island, (7) Michigan, (1) Kansas.
After being upset by Oklahoma in the Elite 8 last season, Oregon found themselves back in the Elite 8 this year. This time, they were the underdog and shocked Kansas 74-60 in a game they never looked under threat. That was not supposed to happen.
In the semifinal of the Pac-12 tournament, the Ducks lost Chris Boucher to a torn ACL. Boucher is the third leading scorer and the leading rebounder on the team. He also averaged a team-high 2.5 blocker per game for the second best shot-blocking team in the country.
The Ducks lost the Pac-12 title game to Arizona by three and fell to a 3-seed. They cruised in round one against Iona but then survived two close ones. They trailed Rhode Island for most of the game before Tyler Dorsey hit a three to tie it up in the last two minutes. Dorsey then hit another three in the final minutes to send the Ducks to the Sweet 16. In the regional semifinal Dorsey played hero again, scoring the final bucket in a 69-68 win over Michigan.
Dorsey has been the Ducks best player in the tournament, scoring 24, 27, 20 and 27 so far. He is shooting 66 percent from the floor, including 13-21 from beyond the arc. The run has brought his season average up to 14.5 points per game. He has picked up his play as Oregon’s best plalyer, Dillon Brooks, has continued his play from the season. Brooks averages 16.3 points on the year and is currently averaging 16.5 during the tournament.
Oregon has also gotten a boost from Jordan Bell during the tournament. Bell averages 10.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game on the year but with Boucher’s injury, he has to carry the load down low. He has three double-doubles in the tournament so far. His best game was against Kansas when he scored 11 points, gathered 13 rebounds and recorded 8 blocks.
Dylan Ennis is the fourth and final active Duck averaging double figures with 10.7 points per game.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Season: 31-7 - ACC regular season champions - South region 1-seed
SC Common opponets: Tennessee (73-71 W), Kentucky (103-100 L, 75-73 W), Arkansas (72-65 W), (Clemson (89-86 W), (Monmouth 102-74 W), Duke (86-78 L, 90-83 W, 93-8 L).
Road to the Final Four: (16) Texas Southern, (8) Arkansas, (4) Butler, (2) Kentucky.
The favorite of the teams remaining is without a doubt North Carolina. After losing at the buzzer to Villanova in the final last season, the Tar Heels are back in the Final Four looking to avenge that loss. The Heels hit some bumps on road to Phoenix though. They were trailing Arkansas in the final minutes before shutting out the Hogs down the stretch to advance past the first weekend. After breezing by Butler in the Sweet 16, they beat Kentucky with a Luke Maye jumper in the final seconds.
Justin Jackson leads the Heels in points per game, averaging 18.2. He has improved in the tournament, averaging 19.7 points so far. He has had to with the injury troubles of point guard Joel Berry II. Berry has had ankle problems plaguing him the entire tournament. He scored 26 in the win over Butler but only scored a combined 24 points in the three other games.
North Carolina is the best rebounding team in the nation. They average 43.5 boards a game. Kennedy Meeks leads the team, averaging 9.3 on the year and 11 per game in the tournament. The Heels do it as a team though. They have six players averaging four rebounds or more (USC only has four players averaging three or more).
The Heels have four players averaging 12 points or more as Meeks (12.3) and Isaiah Hicks (12.1) join Jackson and Berry in double figures.
As for coaching, the Tar Heels have the experience with Roy Williams at the helm. This is Williams’ ninth Final Four appearance. All three other coaches will be getting their first taste of the Final Four this weekend.