By Dan Leach
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Gonzaga: Saturday, April 1 6:09 p.m., University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona, TV: CBS
Current America’s Bookie Line: Gonzaga (-7), Total 137.5
THE COCKS!! Easily one of the most impressive stories in recent college basketball history as South Carolina finds itself in its first-ever Final Four along with perennial Cinderella Gonzaga, which has finally reached its own historic level.
This is one of the more unlikely national semifinals in recent history, as many thought the Zags were good enough to get here, but felt they would crumble like they’ve historically done in the Elite Eight.
No one — and I mean NO ONE — aside from maybe Darius Rucker and members of the South Carolina State House and Senate picked the Gamecocks to get to Glendale. Their run as been as astonishing as it has been mesmerizing.
Frank Martin’s kids have taken on every challenge on their amazing romp through the tourney and not just passed them, but crushed them. USC might be on one of the most incredible runs in tourney history as they have been underdogs in every game so far and have covered the spread by 10 points or more in each contest.
So how can you go against them now?
I will give you one reason not to sleep on them: Sindarius Thornwell!
The SEC player of the year has been masterful and is the main reason the Cocks are still cock-a-doodle-doing in the Big Dance. He has been all over the floor, scoring 26 against Florida in the Elite Eight, 24 against Baylor, 24 in the stunning upsets of Duke, and 29 in the opening round win against Marquette. He has simply been the most dominant player in the tourney and he will continue that on Saturday night.
Now let’s be fair, while many didn’t think Gonzaga had what it took to get to this point, I had them in all but one of my Final Four brackets (I did five in case you’re wondering). This is the most balanced and grittiest team Mark Few has ever had in his amazing run as the Zags coach. They almost went undefeated this regular season and have Johnathan Williams and Nigel Williams-Goss, who are almost impossible to stop.
It is going to be a case of whether the Zags can use their experience and balance to slow down the Cocks. While I understand why Gonzaga is a seven-point favorite, I find it a little absurd with the way South Carolina has played in this tourney. It is the Cocks’ year — as their women’s team is already in the national title game.
The men will follow suit against this Zags team which just won’t have an answer for USC’s defense and a man named Sindarius Thornwell, whose tourney mystique will just continue to grow.
(South Carolina +7)