Two wins stand between four teams and the 2017 NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball tournament title, as the Final Four tips off Saturday, April 1 in Glendale, Arizona.
Four rounds of play whittled the 68-team tournament field to an improbable Final Four grouping.
One matchup pits top-seeded Gonzaga against the tournament’s de facto Cinderella, seventh-seeded South Carolina, with both teams appearing in their first Final Four.
On the other side of the bracket, top-seeded North Carolina is the lone holdover, taking on a third-seeded Oregon squad appearing in just its second Final Four, and first since 1939.
Online sportsbook Bovada posted its betting odds on all four contenders for the college basketball crown, and as expected a seasoned Tar Heels program was installed as the favorite:
2017 NCAA Tournament Winner Odds for Final Four
|Team||NCAA Championship Odds on 3/30|
As for the individual matchups, check out the game preview capsules below, which come complete with tip-off time, and both spread and moneyline odds as found on Bovada:
#1 Gonzaga (36-1) vs. #7 South Carolina (26-10) – 6:09 p.m. EST
After 18 years spent transforming Gonzaga from mid-major underdog to perennial powerhouse, head coach Mark Few has finally led the Bulldogs to the Final Four’s promised land.
Gonzaga has appeared in every NCAA tournament over that span, but the Elite Eight proved to be the program’s limit until now. With only one blemish on their schedule thus far, this year’s Bulldogs team is powered by the inside-out combination of center Przemek Karnowski and point guard Nigel Williams-Goss.
As a seven-seed, South Carolina had to upset second-seeded Duke, third-seeded Baylor, and fourth-seeded Florida en route to the Final Four. Those wins were each by seven points or more, including a 70-50 demolition of Baylor that displayed the Gamecocks’ defensive prowess under head coach Frank Martin.
Martin led Kansas State to five straight tourney appearances, before departing to lead South Carolina’s basketball renaissance. It took four fruitless seasons of rebuilding, but Martin has harnessed the talent of guard Sindarius Thornwell to reach the Final Four for the first time.
Gonzaga (-6.5 / +225 ML) is a big favorite here, but if any team can hand the Bulldogs their second loss of the season, it’s this upset-minded South Carolina (+6.5 / +265 ML) squad.
#1 North Carolina (31-7) vs. #3 Oregon (33-5) – 8:49 p.m. EST
In last year’s NCAA championship game, North Carolina hit a game-tying three-pointer with 4.6 seconds to go, only to lose on a buzzer-beating three by Villanova.
Head coach Roy Williams managed to shrug off the painful loss, leading the Tar Heels back to the Final Four, and putting himself on the brink of a third national title.
This year the team is led by three-point sharpshooting guard Justin Jackson, who became the first Tar Heels player to nail more than 100 threes in a season.
Considering the Tar Heels score 121.4 points per 100 possessions, sixth in the nation, Oregon will be hoping to replicate their defensive clampdown in the last round.
The Ducks held a high-powered, and top-seeded, Kansas team to just 60 points in an Elite Eight win – after the Jayhawks had lit up the scoreboard for 100, 90, and 98 points in three blowout wins.
The oddsmakers give North Carolina (-5 / -200 ML) the edge, but the spread is slimmer than one would suspect, suggesting Oregon (+5 / +170 ML) has earned respect with this deep run.