Collegian sports staff predicts NCAA Final Four weekend

UNC players give Butler’s Kamar Baldwin a tough time. Photo by Jimmy Lafakis.

The Butler Collegian sports staff makes their predictions for this weekend’s NCAA Final Four and National Championship games in Phoenix, Arizona. With two No. 1 seeds, a No. 3 seed and a Cinderella-like No. 7 seed, anything can happen. But this staff lays it all out the best it can.

 

-Grant Anschuetz, Sports Editor

Prediction for South Carolina vs. Gonzaga:

The South Carolina Gamecocks are this year’s Cinderella story. In what will be the first Final Four game in each of these program’s history, I have the Gamecocks winning 70-65. Sindarius Thornwell, who averages over 20 points per game, has an all-time name and will make big play after play.

Prediction for Oregon vs. UNC:

Oregon may be wearing the brighter uniforms on Saturday night, but North Carolina is just too sound as a unit to fall to the Ducks. Also, the Tar Heels are seeking revenge from last year’s championship game loss to Villanova, which plays a factor. UNC wins 80-72.

Prediction for Final:

South Carolina vs. North Carolina, what a showdown. With the fan bases living so close to one another, the arena is sure to be a hostile environment. South Carolina’s magical run comes to an end in this game due to the duo of Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II; North Carolina wins the national championship by a score of 82-65.

-Zach Horrall, Sports Editor

Prediction for South Carolina vs. Gonzaga:

This is a battle of who is prepared versus who isn’t, and South Carolina is prepared, while Gonzaga is not. The Gamecocks took down quality teams, but Gonzaga…eh: South Dakota State? Nah. Northwestern? Not a good win. West Virginia? Yeah that was a challenging one. Xavier? Haha, did you see the score? Moral of the story: South Carolina’s road to Phoenix made them ready, and Gonzaga glided through the tournament with no challenge. South Carolina by 9; 74-65.

Prediction for Oregon vs. UNC:

UNC is a very good team, but Oregon is riding a lot of momentum after tough wins against Michigan and Kansas. If they can beat Kansas, they can beat North Carolina. Also, look at those jerseys. When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you win. Ducks 71, Tar Heels 70.

Prediction for Final:

Oregon can try, but South Carolina can’t be stopped. Besides beating Kansas, Oregon never played like a team destined for a national championship, but South Carolina did. And in this lackluster tournament, the NCAA wants, and needs, the Cinderella story of South Carolina winning in order for it not to be a bust. Gamecocks 58, Ducks 54.

 

-Joshua Doering, Staff Reporter

Prediction for South Carolina vs. Gonzaga:

Frank Martin’s Gamecocks played stellar defense throughout the tournament, and Sindarius Thornwell lived up to his billing as SEC Player of the Year. Gonzaga has been getting production from a slew of players and is now battle tested. The size and shooting ability of the Zags will be the difference in a 72-64 victory.

Prediction for Oregon vs. UNC:

This should be an exciting game filled with back and forth, end-to-end action. Jordan Bell has been phenomenal on the defensive end for the Ducks, blocking shots and rebounding at a high level. The combination of the Tar Heels’ rebounding ability and Chris Boucher’s injury spell the end for Oregon, 81-75.

Prediction for Final:

Gonzaga and North Carolina have been two of the best teams in college basketball all year. Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins will negate the interior advantage North Carolina has enjoyed up to this point. That being said, the Tar Heels made it their mission to revenge last year’s loss and will cut down the nets after winning 75-64.

-Phil Tor, Staff Reporter

Prediction for South Carolina vs. Gonzaga:

SC 67-58. Gonzaga dominated Xavier in the elite eight to advance to the school’s first final four. The Zags should tear right through USC’s defense, who tries to wear down opponents with their slow paced attack. South Carolina will have to stop a high powered Gonzaga offense loaded with talent such as Nigel Williams-Goss and Przemek Karnowski. To complete the upset South Carolina will have to find scoring from players not named Sindarius Thornwell.

Prediction for Oregon vs. UNC:

UNC 88-81. After being stunned by Villanova in last years final, the Tar Heels are back in the Final Four with redemption on their minds. Led by Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II, the Tar Heels should find themselves back in the championship after a victory against Oregon. A taller and more physical North Carolina team should dominate the glass with the Ducks missing their best rim protector, Chris Boucher. The Ducks still have a fighting chance if their stars Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey continue their fantastic play thus far in the tournament.

Prediction for Final:

UNC def. Gonzaga 80-76. After a crushing defeat last year, the Tar Heels will redeem themselves this season. It will be a battle on the boards, but Roy Williams team has all the pieces they need to pull out the victory. Gonzaga has never faced a team like UNC, who is averaging 85.5 points per game in the tournament. Justin Jackson, Joel Berry II, Luke Maye and company will cut down the nets in Phoenix to cap off one of the best seasons in North Carolina’s storied history.

-Savannah Boettcher, Staff Reporter

Prediction for South Carolina vs. Gonzaga:

Part of me wants to go with the No. 1 Zags, but I just can’t. With the momentum from taking down Florida on Sunday, I have the Gamecocks taking down the Zags in a nail biter, 77-75. Keep an eye out for Sindarius Thornwell to come in clutch down the stretch.

Prediction for Oregon vs. UNC:

I’m a firm believer in that the best way to lessen the blow of a loss is to have it come from a National Championship contender. That being said, I have the Tar Heels beating the Ducks in a fast-paced, offensive game. Look for Justin Jackson to have a big game in an 86-70 victory when UNC goes duck hunting.

 

Prediction for Final:

It’s about time the Carolinas had something to cheer about in sports! A shocking loss from Duke will be forgotten when South Carolina and North Carolina face off in the National Championship. Sadly, a Cinderella story can only go for so long — UNC over USC, 78-68.

-Dana Lee, Staff Reporter

Prediction for South Carolina vs. Gonzaga:

Common sense tells me Gonzaga over the Gamecocks, 65-62. I feel bad for crushing a Cinderella story, but I’m a cynical sports fan and Gonzaga has a longer tradition of tournament success that gives them the edge. Let’s keep in mind that before this March, South Carolina’s last NCAA tournament win was in 1973.

Prediction for Oregon vs. UNC:

Watching North Carolina take on Butler was rough, but the same approach will lead to success against Oregon, especially considering Chris Boucher’s absence. Tyler Dorsey’s scoring streak and appropriate nickname Mr. March gives the Ducks a fighting chance, but it won’t be enough. Tar Heels win 85-73.

Prediction for Final:

The Tar Heels’ combination of experience, depth and versatility is going to wear down Gonzaga, 86-82. North Carolina leads the nation in rebounds which is always a plus. The team’s starting lineup is stacked with veteran leadership, sharing 576 career games between five starters. Defense and experience wins championships. “The ceiling is the roof.” Or so Michael Jordan says.

– Josh Mullenix, Staff Reporter

Prediction for South Carolina vs. Gonzaga:

The Gamecocks’ Cinderella story ends in the Final Four. Gonzaga is now battle tested after close victories, and their guards look extremely confident after getting through a tenacious West Virginia press. Nigel Williams-Goss and Przemek Karnowski will prove too much for the Gamecocks, and Johnathan Williams will once again be the spark for the Zags. Gonzaga stopped Xavier, who had all the momentum, and they will do the same to South Carolina. Zags 77-68.

Prediction for Oregon vs. UNC:

This game is going to be exciting. Big-time players all over the place. The matchups of Joel Berry II/Tyler Dorsey and Justin Jackson/Dillon Brooks will be so fun to watch. At the end of the day, UNC’s scorers, along with their size on the interior, will be too much for Oregon. I can’t see Jordan Bell having the same kind of game he had against Kansas, a team with little inside presence. I’ve got UNC going to the National Championship game for the second straight year. Heels 77-72

Prediction for Final:

UNC vs. Gonzaga in the Natty. I think this is finally Gonzaga’s year. Mark Few finally got to the Final Four, and I think he will get the job done. Gonzaga has the size to compete with UNC in Karnowski and Zach Collins. The defense of the UNC guards won’t be good enough to stop Williams-Goss and the rest of Gonzaga’s backcourt. At the end of the day, Gonzaga will never have to hear anything about them never winning a title. Zags 71-69.

-Jimmy Lafakis, Staff Reporter

Prediction for South Carolina vs. Gonzaga:

The Gamecocks are hot. And their ball of flame named Sindarius Thornwell isn’t going out anytime soon. There is something to be said for a team peaking at the right time, and Frank Martin has this team believing they can make even more noise. Gamecocks 75-72.

Prediction for Oregon vs. UNC:

I got to see North Carolina up close. News flash: They are good. Justin Jackson is a monster and a half. Oregon has some stout defenders, but the Tar Heels have some major weapons at their disposal. I think it’s safe to say that Joel Berry is back. I just can’t see UNC losing this game, especially after having a front-row seat to their clinic March 24. Tar Heels 86-81.

Prediction for Final:

So here’s a great matchup. I love Justin Jackson. Luke Maye is an American hero — he even attended his 8 a.m. class on Monday morning. That momentum they earned after beating Kentucky and Oregon will carry the Tar Heels to the promised land — a place they were unable to reach last year. This will be an amazing national championship. The Tar Heels are a different beast. North Carolina 80-75.

-Collin Perry, Staff Reporter

Prediction for Gonzaga vs. South Carolina

South Carolina made a statement this past weekend in New York. However, the Cinderella story is over. The Gamecocks do not have an answer for the Przemek Karnowski and sharpshooter Jordan Mathews. Mark Few has built a tremendous team from top to bottom, and I see the Bulldogs taking care of business in Phoenix on March 25. Gonzaga wins 84-68.

Prediction for Oregon vs. UNC:

Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson and Joel Berry had one reason to return to Chapel Hill this season: to win the national championship. They get a step closer to that goal in a great matchup with Oregon. Though the Ducks were able to knock off No. 1 seed Kansas in a virtual road game in Kansas City, no one can stop the Tar Heels. UNC wins 78-70.

Prediction for Final:

This game is all about experience and who wants it more. The Tar Heels were as close as you could get last year. Gonzaga is making their first trip to the Final Four, let alone the championship game. That being said, Gonzaga can shoot just as well as North Carolina from distance. I think this will be another thriller with more “Onions!” from Bill Raftery. Gonzaga wins 73-71.

 

-Sam Phifer, Staff Reporter

Prediction for South Carolina vs. Gonzaga:

South Carolina is on a roll right now, and they are eating up their opponents one-by-one. Meanwhile, the Zags have proven that they aren’t an overrated team like I thought they were (had them losing the Northwestern). The two teams will duel it out until the fourth quarter when South Carolina pulls another upset out of their pocket and beat Zaga once and for all. Do you believe in miracles? Yes…but this isn’t going to be one. South Carolina wins 75-70.

Prediction for Oregon vs. UNC

This is a game I have gone back and forth on. As we saw when UNC played the Dawgs, they don’t miss shots. For some reason Joel Berry II cannot miss a bucket, plus their outstanding rebounding on each side of the court is hard to compete with. Meanwhile, Oregon has Jordan Bell, who pulled down 13 rebounds alone in the win over Kansas. This game will be a close one until the end but I have to stay true to my bracket; UNC wins 69-63.

Prediction for Final:

The big dance. UNC vs South Carolina. Looking at season statistics it’s clear that UNC is the favorite, but this is March MADNESS for a reason. This will be a game to remember, because both of these teams do so many things so well. Whether it be UNC’s ability to rebound, which is the best in the NCAA, or South Carolina’s ability to find the open man and move the ball quicker than the speed of light; this will be a great game. As a sports fan, I love a good underdog story. So with that being said, South Carolina wins 77-75 (buzzer beater).

-Kelsie Kasper, Staff Reporter

Prediction for South Carolina vs. Gonzaga:

Both of these teams are entering their first Final Four appearance in school history. South Carolina is coming into the final stretch with a few upsets and some serious momentum. Gonzaga? Not so much. But, the Gamecock’s Cinderella story must come to an end. I have the Bulldogs taking home a victory to go to the ‘ship. Zaga 85-79.

Prediction for Oregon vs. UNC:

North Carolina without a doubt had the toughest region pulling out wins against Kentucky, UCLA and of course, Butler (Go Dawgs). Although, Oregon did have an impressive win to knock out No. 1 Kansas in the Elite Eight. This game will be a close one, but I have the Tar Heels hunting down the Ducks to return to the championship. UNC 82-78.

Prediction for Final:

So, North Carolina and the championship game meet again. However, this time, I have the Tar Heels taking the hardware home. This experienced and versatile team is ready to take home their sixth national championship. But, Zaga won’t go down without a fight. I mean a final game wouldn’t be fun without it being a nail biter, right? UNC wins 78-75.

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