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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 31, 2017 at 2:33 PM

OUR JIM SEZ FINAL FOUR PREVIEWS - SO, WHO WINS THE DESERT DUELS THIS SATURDAY?

No matter what happens this April Fool's Day (that's Saturday) in sunny Glendale, the college basketball universe is en route to crowning a sixth different champion is as many years.

Villanova, Duke, UConn, Louisville and Kentucky have snagged the past five college hoop titles (in that order) but none of 'em are around this weekend for this year's NCAA Tournament Final Four.
The money's poured in the past few days on overall betting favorite North Carolina (- 115) but Gonzaga's priced at even money to win it all and Oregon (+ 350) and South Carolina (+ 550) should not be dismissed - heck, more than once in recent college hoops history we've witnessed the "longshot" cut down the nets on the final Monday night of the season.

But first things first and that means it's off to the desert for a pair of wildly interesting (and what should be wildly entertaining) Final Four games this Saturday - our Jim Sez previews are below and they include the NCAA Tournament game-by-game journeys these clubs have travelled so far:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are ready to roar this weekend in the Final Four as the College Basketball season winds down with Saturday's doubleheader in Arizona and then the NCAA Tournament Championship Game come Monday night. Get in now on the tourney's Final Four - just go online game-day morning here or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 and we'll send you straight into the winner's circle. Catch the CBI and CIT championship game winners as well - both games are set for this final Friday night in March.

Hey, we're also banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month. And come Sunday afternoon/night, Major-League Baseball is back (don't forget there's almost a full slate of games on Monday!) and so make sure you get out of the gate fast with America's #1 Handicapper as we zoom into the 2017 MLB Season.


THE FINAL FOUR - UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX STADIUM - Glendale, AZ

#7 SOUTH CAROLINA (26-10) vs. #1 GONZAGA (36-1) - 6:05 p.m. ET, CBS
It's not often you get to a Final Four and there's a "power conference" club snapping up more than a handful of points against a so-called "non-power conference" team - and toss into the mix the fact that SEC member South Carolina just went 4-and-oh SU (straight-up) and ATS (against the spread) in its other NCAA Tournament games against fellow power conference teams.

So, one might be inclined to believe the SC Gamecocks offer real "value" here but then stop to consider that Gonzaga just came off its most overpowering game in this tourney (see the 83-59 beat-down over Xavier last Saturday) and enters this Final Four with a glitzy 23-9-2 spread mark. And lost amidst all the hub-bub regarding Gonzaga finally making it to the Final Four is the fact Mark Few's squad is playing dynamic defense these days while holding NCAA Tourney foes to just 59 points per game.

You can detail all the matchups you want - South Carolina's star Sindarius Thornwell (averaging nearly 26 ppg in this tourney) against the aforementioned rugged Gonzaga defense or the flip side of Zags' PG Nigel Williams-Goss (23 points/8 rebounds/4 assists versus Xavier last weekend in San Jose) trying to be a steady force against this ferocious Gamecocks' defense but better know the following:

If South Carolina's gonna pull the upset, Frank Martin's squad needs to take (and make) more triples than usual and steer clear of front-court foul woes against Gonzaga big man Przemek Karnowski while the Zags must not allow any big second-half scoring runs as that's been South Carolina's "M.O." in this tourney so far.

Here's the road to the NCAA Tournament Final Four for both #7 South Carolina and #1 Gonzaga:

SOUTH CAROLINA

DATEOPPSPREAD SCORE
3-17Marquette+ 193-73
3-19Duke+ 6.588-81
3-24Baylor+ 370-50
3-26Florida+ 377-70

GONZAGA

DATEOPPSPREAD SCORE
3-16South Dakota St.- 2366-46
3-18Northwestern- 10.579-73
3-23West Virginia- 361-58
3-25Xavier- 8.583-59


#3 OREGON (33-5) vs. #1 NORTH CAROLINA (31-7) - approximately 8:35 p.m. ET, CBS
The folks 'round the UNC Tar Heels have been calling this "redemption time" one year after the ACC gang lost the national championship on a last-second bomb shot by Villanova's Kris Jenkins ... and now Roy Williams' crew finds itself one step away from another berth in the title tilt but in order to bang out a win here we say the Heels must make this an in-the-paint evening and not allow Oregon's more athletic players to spread the court so much.

Heck, the Ducks seem to have a better offensive flow to their game these days without the services of shot-blocker/rebounder Chris Boucher - we admit this is a game in which the Pac-12 team could sorely be missing their star player - and here look for the likes of Dillon Brooks (16.3 ppg) and Tyler Dorsey (he's scored 20-or-more points in seven consecutive games now) to welcome a real rhythm-and-flow game where both Brooks/Dorsey get off somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-to-45 between 'em. Still, there's no beating around the proverbial bush and that is the Ducks will win only if they do a decent job keeping North Carolina's bigs off the offensive glass. Tell us right now that the likes of UNC's Kennedy Meeks (17 boards in that chair-gripping NCAA Tourney Elite 8 game win against Kentucky last Sunday) and/or Tony Bradley will be snagging offensive boards while Oregon's Jordan Bell is getting beaten to the punch, and we'll suggest that North Carolina will win by a twin-figure margin here.

No doubt that ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson will "get his" as in 18-to-22 points and that PG Joel Berry II (rested ankles and all) will be a positive force - it's Carolina's game to win or lose on those offensive boards and so the rebounding stat sheet column is the single biggest one to check out here.

Oregon boss-man Dana Altman isn't adverse to changing defenses and speeding up the game action - but neither is Williams as evidenced by the switch to a zone against Kentucky last weekend ... a big part of that UNC win.

Here's the road to the NCAA Tournament Final Four for both #3 Oregon and #1 North Carolina:

OREGON

DATEOPPSPREAD SCORE
3-17Iona- 15.593-77
3-19Rhode Island- 575-72
3-23MichiganPK69-68
3-25Kansas+ 6.574-60


NORTH CAROLINA

DATEOPPSPREAD SCORE
3-17Texas Southern- 26.5103-64
3-19Arkansas- 11.572-65
3-24Butler- 792-80
3-26Kentucky- 275-73

 

NOTE: More NCAA Tournament Final Four Notes in the next Jim Sez.

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