Tar Heels Lead Regional Winners Into Final Four

Willie Bee

Monday, March 27, 2017 3:34 PM UTC

Monday, Mar. 27, 2017 3:34 PM UTC

Ducks, 'Dogs, 'Cocks and Heels. That's our lineup for this year's Final Four, and it's North Carolina favored on the college basketball futures odds to cut down the nets in Phoenix.

Two will make their first appearances in the Final Four, another its first since 1939, Year 1 of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Finishing off the quartet is North Carolina, the Tar Heels perhaps the bluest of college basketball blue bloods and making their 20th trip to the Final Four.

Roy Williams' bunch might finish off that list above, but North Carolina has been at the top of the NCAA futures odds to win a sixth national championship since the 2017 March Madness brackets began. That hasn't changed having reached the last foursome to contend with the Tar Heels fetching about a +150 return to complete the journey in Phoenix.

Speaking of brackets, mine are pretty much toast with only one original Final Four picks making it to the final weekend. That would be Oregon, winner of that inaugural 1939 Big Dance. The Ducks join UNC for the Final Four, accompanied by the Gonzaga Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks, each making their first appearance on this stage.


'Zags Look To Erase Years Of Disappointment

Gonzaga follows North Carolina on the NCAA basketball odds as a +200 choice to win its first championship. One of the top programs over the past couple of decades, Mark Few's troops hope to beat the rap as just a dominant small conference squad and become the first team outside the old 'Power 6' -- ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC -- to win the title since UNLV in 1990.

The Bulldogs are undoubtedly the most efficient offensive team left, 10th in scoring (83.2 ppg) and second in shooting (50.9% FG). But what's been overlooked by many so far in this tourney is their defense, Gonzaga holding its four opponents to a sub-60 PPG average.

The top seeds in the West collide with another side playing solid defense, and the most unlikely of Final Four participants in South Carolina. Seeded seventh in the East, Frank Martin's group started by dispatching No. 10 Marquette before flunking No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Baylor and No. 4 Florida to get here. The Gamecocks are listed at +750 to cut down the nets, and 6 point underdogs to topple Gonzaga.


Ducks Beating Odds Without Boucher

When Oregon lost Chris Boucher just before the Pac-12 Championship, many didn't think the Ducks would reach the Sweet 16, much less the Final Four. But Dana Altman rallied his team around the loss instead of letting Boucher's injury get them down, surviving a couple of scares vs. Rhode Island and Michigan to head into Saturday's nightcap off a most impressive 74-60 win in the Midwest Finals over No. 1 seed Kansas.

Trouble is, now they have to face another No. 1 seed in North Carolina, the Tar Heels getting here via a late bucket in a 75-73 decision over Kentucky in the South. Yes, UNC committed 19 turnovers and didn't shoot well at all from outside. But the Heels refused to lose with a 16-9 run in the final five minutes, and they're giving up 4½ to Oregon.

Straight up, it's too easy not to go with North Carolina and Gonzaga in the semis. And that's just what I'm going to do with my free college basketball picks. It's finally time for a Gonzaga party, baby, as the Bulldogs eventually cut down the nest next Monday.


Free NCAAB Pick: Gonzaga To Advance Over South Carolina in Final Four at 5DimesPredicted Championship Game: Gonzaga Over UNC in Championship Game

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