GONZAGA BULLDOGS 2016-17 RECORD: 36-1, 17-1 WCC HEAD COACH: Mark Few (First Final Four Appearance)
PROJECTED STARTERS G - Josh Perkins (8.2 PPG, 3.2 APG, 40.0 3-PT FG%) G - Nigel Williams-Goss (16.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.6 APG) F - Jordan Mathews (10.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 38.7 3-PT FG%) F - Johnathan Williams (10.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 59.4 FG%) C - Przemek Karnowski (12.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 60.1 FG%)
WILL WIN THE NATIONAL TITLE IF.... the string of stellar defensive performances continues. Gonzaga's efficient offense has wowed college basketball fans throughout the year, but the Zags' defense will determine whether a first national title heads to Spokane. The good news is that defense hasn't been a problem for them in the NCAA Tournament. Only one opponent - Northwestern - has scored more than 59 points on the Zags in this tournament. To take it a step further, only eight opponents have scored more than 69 points against Gonzaga the entire season. That type of stifling defense has allowed Mark Few's team to hold opponents to just 60.9 points per game this year - a figure that ranks fourth nationally. Gonzaga also ranks second in the nation in holding the opposition to only 36.5 percent shooting from the field. When you combine those kind of defensive numbers with an offense that averages 83.2 points per game, it's easy to understand why a national title is well within reach.
WILL LOSE TO SOUTH CAROLINA ON SATURDAY IF.... Few's team can't match the Gamecocks' physicality on both ends of the floor. After the SEC put three teams in the Elite Eight, it's clear that many underestimated the strength of the league this season. But there was one aspect in particular that was wildly overlooked: the level of intensity from teams like South Carolina and Florida. The Gamecocks have used that intensity to force turnovers and rack up spectacular defensive numbers, and they'll attempt to do the same on Saturday afternoon. But South Carolina's physicality extends to the offensive side of the court as well - the Gamecocks ranked 13th in the nation with 853 total free throw attempts this season. If Gonzaga can't handle Sindarius Thornwell and company's ability to attack the rim and cause chaos on defense, it could be a long night for the West Region champions.