BY MATT DE SARLE
It’s the Final 4. By now, each team has proven it belongs. But there is one matchup that we, as college basketball fans, cannot help but root for.
UNC versus Gonzaga would be the perfect pairing of polar opposites. But it would be the perfect alignment of player matchups that would give this fantastic 2017 NCAA Tournament the climax it deserves.
Gonzaga, the mid-major power nestled in the wildness of the West Coast. Give coach Mark Few all the credit for building this program to it’s current stature, but the West Coast Conference is still a mid-major conference.
UNC, a true blue blood across the college basketball landscape, with any East Coast bias easily bolstered by basketball legends like Michael Jordan and vocal ACC alumnus like Jay Bilas.
On the court, you’d have a smattering of guards that can handle this moment. For Gonzaga, it’s Nigel Williams-Goss, Josh Perkins and Jordan Matthews who will handle the load. On UNC it’s Joel Berry and Nate Britt. Like champion NCAA guards in the last two decades (think Khalid El-Amin, Nolan Smith, Peyton Siva, Sherron Collins, Mateen Cleaves), none of these guards may ever be an NBA All-Star. But, within the next 48 hours, they can be champions.
At the center of the action are two giants who have been playing college ball, it seems, since George W. was in office. Przemek Karnowki had his college basketball tenure extended by a nasty back injury. Kennedy Meeks’s McDonald’s All-American appearance was beside current, experienced NBA mainstays like Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle. This would be a fun battle to watch down low with a combined weight (generously listed) at 564 pounds being tossed around.
And every memorable championship game needs the pinning of two X factors against one another. Both teams have that under appreciated do-it-all 4 man in Jonathan Williams and Isaiah Hicks. Each is listed at 6-9. Each is capable of guarding a hot shooter or agile post threat. Each could easily walk away from this game with a double-double and Final Four MVP recognition.
And then, there’s the thoroughbred. No one is playing better across the nation than Justin Jackson right now. He has aptly been compared to Richard Hamilton during CBS/Turner Sports telecasts of the Sweet 16. Our fingers are crossed that this NCAA Title game can be as rewarding as the one between UCONN and Duke that featured Hamilton in 1998.