Will Phoenix become a basketball city? Dan Bickley discusses the Final Four in Arizona, NBA stars resting and more in the latest Shot Clock.
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Would you spend $7,500 for three games of the best college basketball? How about $275? Reporter Perry Vandell breaks down the action on the tickets before the big games. Patrick Breen/azcentral.com
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Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks discuss what it would mean to win a national championship, at University of Phoenix Stadium on Friday, March 31. David Wallace/azcentral sports
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University of North Carolina talks nerves and expectations before Saturday’s game.
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South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell talks about missing Thursday’s practice because of illness and feeling better for Friday’s practice at University of Phoenix Stadium. David Wallace/azcentral sports
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Perkins and Karnowski talk injury, nerves and expectations before practice on Friday.
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A look at the paths taken by the remaining teams in this year’s mens NCAA basketball tournament.
By Jim Sergent and Ramon Padilla, USA TODAY.
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USA TODAY Sports’ Nicole Auerbach thinks you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t keep an eye on these players in the Final Four.
USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina players answer the question that’s on the minds of so many college basketball fans: what the heck is a Gamecock?
USA TODAY Sports
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North Carolina’s Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II discuss being back to the NCAA Final Four and trying to win it all, in the locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium on March 30, 2017. (David Wallace/azcentral sports)
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Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, Dylan Ennis and Casey Benson, discuss counting their blessings, meeting Kobe Bryant and playing a Final Four in their home state, respectively, in the locker room on March 30, 2017. (David Wallace/azcentral sports)
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Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski, Jordan Mathews and Nigel Williams-Goss talk about rising to the moment of the NCAA Final Four in the locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium on March 30, 2017. (David Wallace/azcentral sports)
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South Carolina’s PJ Dozier and Duane Notice talk about their confidence and under dog status for the NCAA Final Four in the locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium on March 30, 2017. (David Wallace/azcentral sports)
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Downtown Phoenix gets ready to host the NCAA Final Four Fan Fest and house the teams as they play in nearby Glendale for the NCAA Final Four games. David Wallace/azcentral.com
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Luke Maye connected on a last-second jump shot to defeat the Kentucky Wildcats and send North Carolina to the Final Four.
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USA TODAY Sports’ Nicole Auerbach goes behind the scenes of South Carolina’s win over Florida, which sends the Gamecocks to their first Final Four.
USA TODAY Sports
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The Oregon Ducks have reached the Final Four for the first time since 1939 after a 74-60 win over the Kansas Jayhawks in the Elite Eight.
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USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken breaks down Gonzaga’s Elite Eight victory over Xavier.
USA TODAY Sports
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The court for the NCAA Final Four tournament is put together at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral
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azcentral’s Paola Boivin breaks down Arizona’s loss to Xavier in the Sweet 16. Video: Michael Chow/azcentral.com
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The Arizona Wildcats, who many had in the Final Four, are bounced from the NCAA Tournament. Plus, the Oakland Raiders may soon be the Las Vegas Raiders. Will that actually happen? Video: azcentral sports
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USA TODAY Sports’ George Schroeder looks at how the Jayhawks and Ducks prevailed to set up their upcoming matchup in the Midwest region of the NCAA tournament.
USA TODAY Sports
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ULCA head coach Steve Alford acknowledges the game against the two ‘bluebloods’ of NCAA basketball with the most championships between them.
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Considered all but done after losing their star point guard and dropping six straight games in February, Xavier has improbably made a run to the Elite Eight after defeating No. 2 Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen.
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Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller is the third highest-paid head coach in the NCAA Tournament and can earn close to $1 million in bonuses for winning the national title.
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Take a look at some at the faces of celebration and dejection from the tourney.
USA TODAY Sports
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The massive scoreboard known as “Colussus TV” is installed at University of Phoenix Stadium for the upcoming NCAA Final Four games. David Wallace/azentral.com
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Being on network TV means this years NCAA tourney should easily overtake last year’s viewership. Richard Deitsch explains how to watch the Madness.
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Shot Clock: Phoenix a basketball city?
Which seats in the Final Four house are still available?
Oregon on what it would mean to win a national championship
UNC players talk about returning to Final Four
South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell on his illness and feeling better
Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins and Przemek Karnowski talk Final Four
Road to the Final Four means a lot of miles traveling
Top players to watch in the Final Four
Gamecocks explain what a gamecock is
North Carolina on being back to the NCAA Final Four
Oregon on counting their blessings
Gonzaga on rising to the moment
South Carolina on their confidence and underdog status
Downtown Phoenix gets ready for NCAA Final Four
North Carolina headed to Final Four with win over Kentucky
South Carolina makes history with Final Four berth
Oregon advances to first Final Four since 1939 with win over Kansas
Gonzaga advances to program’s first Final Four
Piece by piece, the court for the NCAA Final Four tournament is put together in Glendale
Paola Boivin recaps Arizona’s loss to Xavier
Shot Clock: Arizona knocked out; Raiders moving to Vegas?
Kansas and Oregon set up intriguing Elite 8 matchup
UCLA’s Steve Alford talks about playing Kentucky
No. 11 Xavier upsets No. 2 Arizona to head to Elite Eight
A closer look at Sean Miller’s salary and bonuses
March Madness: Craziest faces of the NCAA tournament
Scoreboard installed at University of Phoenix Stadium for Final Four
Media circus: A guide to March Madness
The Madness has reached its final phase. Here are five story lines that will shape the Final Four.
The Madness has reached its final phase. Four teams, three games.
One national champion.
On Saturday, the Final Four tips off at University of Phoenix Stadium. Seventh-seeded South Carolina faces No.1 Gonzaga in the first contest, followed by No. 1 North Carolina and No. 3 Oregon.
“As all players, they’ve dreamed about this for a long time,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said.
That moment is now. Here are five story lines that will shape the national semifinals:
North Carolina’s experience
The Tar Heels danced on this stage just last season, losing a national title in the final seconds to Villanova. In a field of Final Four infants (South Carolina and Gonzaga are here for the first time; Oregon was last here in 1939), they are the grown-ups. Been there, done that.
But does it matter?
“It’s a factor, but I also think there are different levels of experience,” said Sean May, North Carolina’s director of player personnel and the Most Outstanding Player of the 2005 Final Four. “I don’t know if just getting to the Final Four automatically gives you a trump over Final Four teams that haven’t been there. Just playing in big games helps.”
South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell on Friday was asked which team would be more nervous: the Gamecocks or Gonzaga. “Gonzaga,’’ he said. Then adding: “Everybody’s nervous. Nobody wants to lose.”
Oregon’s big shot
Every team here has a go-to guy. To date, Thornwell might be the tournament’s MVP. North Carolina’s Justin Jackson is the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss is a second-team All-American.
But the one to watch: Oregon’s Dillon Brooks. The junior forward, who was the Pac-12 Player of the Year, has a knack for producing in the clutch. He hit winning shots this season against Tennessee, UCLA and California. In a 71-70 win over Arizona State, Brooks scored Oregon’s final 12 points.
“I want to be in that moment,” said Brooks, who is averaging 16.3 points. “I’m ready to take the criticism, missing or missing the shot. I’m confident in my game.”
For North Carolina, that’s concerning.
“It’s not just one thing he does well,’’ Tar Heels assistant coach Hubert Davis said. “He can shoot from 3. He can shoot off the catch or the dribble. He’s a good driver. He can post up smaller guards. And when you put him at the (power forward) position, he’s tough to handle.”
BICKLEY: Valley houses a basketball Phoenix
Gonzaga’s big man
Przemek Karnowski is impossible to miss. The Gonzaga senior stands 7-foot-1, 300 pounds. He has the best beard in the Final Four. And he’s probably the toughest matchup here.
In the lane, the left-handed big man excels shooting over his right shoulder. Send an extra defender his way, and he’s as good as any big man in college basketball at finding the open shooter.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Gonzaga coaches insist the Polish-born Karnowski would have been a McDonald’s All-American had he been raised in the U.S.
“It’s going to be tough,” South Carolina forward Maik Kotsar said of defending Karnowski. “We have to push as hard as possible. We’re going to have to deny him (the ball) as much as possible.”
South Carolina’s D
Gonzaga has the nation’s top-rated defense. South Carolina is No. 2. After their tournament-opening win over Marquette, the Gamecocks held Duke, Baylor and Florida all to under 42-percent shooting from the field. They have forced 17 turnovers per game since the tournament began.
“It starts with their conviction,’’ Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd said. “Not many teams are playing any form of denying defense anymore, and they’re 100 percent committed to it. That makes it a little bit different to prepare for.”
The effort starts with senior guard Duane Notice.
“The hardest thing in basketball is guarding the basketball,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said, “and he’s just relentless at it. We’re here and the big reason we’re here is because of who he is and the way he does that.”
The X factor
In the 2012 national championship, Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis shot 1 of 10 from the field, and yet he still dominated. Reason: The future NBA All-Star produced 16 rebounds, five assists, six blocked shots and three steals.
Oregon’s Jordan Bell isn’t on Davis’ level, but he could impact the Final Four in a similar way. In last week’s regional final win over Kansas, the 6-9 junior produced one of the tournament’s top performances, posting 11 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and eight blocked shots.
“Even the shots that he doesn’t block,’’ guard Casey Benson said, “he alters.”
“That’s Jordan Bell’s game,” Oregon assistant coach Tony Stubblefield said. “He was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He can affect the game in a lot of ways. He rebounds. He blocks shots. Obviously, his offense has gotten better, but he brings a lot of energy to the table.”