South Carolina take on Gonzaga in the first of the Final Four games today at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona (6.09pm ET Saturday on CBS).
March has come to an end and that means the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament too is winding down to its final days. With less than a week before the crowning of a new champion, just the Final Four is left to determine who goes home and who gets on step closer to that dream.
This year’s Final Four is a diverse group. Two top seeds advanced out of their regions in Gonzaga and North Carolina, Oregon made it to the Final Four despite losing a player to injury right before the tournament, and South Carolina, well, they are this year’s Cinderella. All four teams have played well and have certainly been deserving of getting this far.
For this preview, we’ll be looking at the first match-up on Saturday, between No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 7 South Carolina. To read our betting preview and predictions for North Carolina vs Oregon, click here.
Road to the Final Four
When the national tournament began Gonzaga, coached by Mark Few (pictured), was the one-seed that most people had circled on their brackets as the one most likely to fall. In fact, according to most metrics, the odds of Gonzaga not reaching the Final Four were shorter than those of any of the other three top seeds. In a way, Gonzaga, despite being a No. 1, was an underdog.
The Bulldogs finished the regular season with the best record in college basketball, dropping just one game against unranked BYU. It was the regular season finale, which Gonzaga followed up by winning the WCC Conference tournament for the fifth year in a row.
Gonzaga rode that conference tournament winning streak into the national tournament where they were on a quest to prove something to a lot of people who thought they didn’t deserve one of the four top seeds. Gonzaga easily toppled #16 South Dakota State, before defeating #8 Northwestern in a game that had a little bit of a controversial finish.
Nevertheless, Gonzaga advanced and continued on their journey to the Final Four, besting #4 West Virginia in the Sweet 16 and completely blowing out Cinderella #11 Xavier in the Elite 8, by 24 points. The win ensured that the Bulldogs would be playing in their first Final Four in school history.
South Carolina are also in their first Final Four, after being in their first ever Elite 8 just a round prior. Despite being in the SEC, as a seventh seeded team, the Gamecocks are the closest thing this year’s tournament has remaining to a Cinderella story and oh what a story it has been.
With just a 22-10 record and having lost five of their last seven, including their first game in the SEC tournament, no one would have been surprised if South Carolina failed to make it out of the first round. But they did, beating #10 Marquette by 20 points. It was the only game South Carolina was actually favored but that didn’t stop the Gamecocks from playing fantastic basketball in the next three rounds.
South Carolina shocked #2 Duke in the second round before going on not only to shock, but dominate #3 Baylor by 20 points in the Sweet 16. The Gamecocks played Florida in the Elite 8 and won by seven points. That may not sound like a lot but South Carolina is the only team remaining in the field that has won each of its games by at least seven points. The fact that they’ve faced two, three and four seeds to do it, is an incredible accomplishment.
This Preview’s South Carolina vs Gonzaga Picks & Predictions Verdict
South Carolina’s road to the Final Four has been a great story but in a different way so has Gonzaga’s. Both of these teams weren’t expected to still be standing at this point and both are out to make history and maybe prove something in the process.
Gonzaga plays a pretty big lineup and that’s tough for even the best defensive teams, which South Carolina is. During the tournament, the Gamecocks have held their opponents to just 68.5 points per game and just 31.6 percent shooting from three-point range. Their offense, while not touted, has been able to ride the back of the staunch defense.
It is not like Gonzaga has been lighting up the scorecard either offensively. The Bulldogs have been up and down in the tournament, with their most recent game against Xavier being their best scoring output in over a month.
As for the spread, the best American sportsbooks make Gonzaga a circa seven-point favorite for this game, with the over and under on the total points at the 138pts mark.
As far as betting trends go, the total has met the under in 21 of South Carolina’s games as underdog. Gonzaga meanwhile, is 21-7-2 ATS in their last 30 games and 8-1 SU in their last nine against the SEC. However, up until defeating Xavier, Gonzaga had failed to cover the spread in the tournament, going 0-2-1 in its first three games.
- The prediction is a tough call, but this preview’s pick on the spread is Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are 10-2-2 ATS as a favorite when the spread is under 8.5pts. They are also 13-1 SU in these same games. The best betting option here is with Bovada who go Gonzaga -6.5pts @ -115. It is -7pts @ -105 odds with MyBookie (and generally -110 with most of the other top USA-facing bookmakers), but we’ll play safe with the worse odds and the better spread.
- As for the total, the trends suggest the under is the best pick so stick to the under 138pts as well. This is generally at odds of -110 except with 5Dimes who are currently -101 odds for under 138.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.