Bing Predicts winner: Gonzaga (92 percent)
Opening line: GON -6.5
Tipoff time: 6:09 p.m. EST
To the absolute shock of just about every basketball fan outside of Columbia, South Carolina, the Gamecocks have made it to the Final Four for the first time ever. Prior to this season, South Carolina hadn't made an NCAA tournament appearance since 2004 and hadn't won a game at the Big Dance since 1973. Frank Martin's team is no fluke, though, as this is a bunch who can play defense with the best of them.
South Carolina has locked down every team that's stood in its path during its run to the Final Four. Opponents have shot a combined 39.9 percent from the field against the Gamecocks, averaging 17 turnovers per game. Each opponent -- Marquette, Duke, Baylor and Florida -- has been held under its season shooting percentage. In its last two games against Baylor and Florida, South Carolina has defended the 3-point line particularly well, allowing just 10 makes on 39 attempts from beyond the arc.
To knock off Gonzaga and keep this ride going, the Gamecocks will have to maintain their defensive chops. The Bulldogs were among the best offensive teams in the country heading into the tournament, yet turned in some rugged performances heading into the Elite Eight. In three games against South Dakota State, Northwestern and West Virginia, Gonzaga shot a combined 41.6 percent from the field and 29.1 percent from the 3-point line. The Bulldogs finally blew the lid off the basket last Saturday against Xavier, shooting 12-for-24 on 3-point attempts in an 83-59 blowout.
The matchup between Wooden Award finalist Nigel Williams-Goss and SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell is the one to watch. For the tournament, Thornwell has shot 50 percent from the field and 42.3 percent on 3-point attempts for an average of 25.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and two steals per game. Williams-Goss, meanwhile, has been in a shooting slump during the tournament, combining to shoot 19-for-61 from the field (31.1 percent) in his last four games.
South Carolina is the last team you want to face when you're trying to bust out of a funk, but the Bulldogs have plenty of weapons on the interior and perimeter. Przemek Karnowski and Johnathan Williams will be the toughest big-man combo the Gamecocks have faced all season, and Mark Few has the luxury of bringing skilled 7-foot freshman Zach Collins off the bench. South Carolina's offense relies on points in the paint and getting to the free throw line to be productive. If Gonzaga avoids getting into foul trouble, it should advance to the national title game.