Fans arrive early for the festivities before the Final Four games Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium. (Patrick Breen/azcentral)
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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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Fans pack University of Phoenix Stadium lawn for Final Four
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
Get the latest from the Final Four in Glendale.
This is the first time the signature event in men’s college basketball will be held in Arizona and the first time it’s been in the West since Seattle hosted it in 1995.
Keep coming back to this page for news and notes from University of Phoenix Stadium.
SCOUTING REPORT: Gonzaga vs. South Carolina
SCOUTING REPORT: Oregon vs. North Carolina
Gonzaga 77, South Carolina 73
Gonzaga advances to its first NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship by beating South Carolina in the national semifinals on Saturday.
Nigel Williams-Goss had 23 points for the Bulldogs, but the big men, Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins stole the show.
Up next: Oregon vs. North Carolina in the late semifinal.
Drawing one up
Down three points, South Carolina has the ball with 12.7 seconds left. Gamecocks probably need to set up a three, because they have no timeouts left. That would make driving for two points and getting the ball back difficult.
Back to work
Good teams don’t panic, and Gonzaga didn’t after the Gamecocks went on a 16-0 run to take a two-point lead with 7:06 left.
Gonzaga responded by pounding the ball inside to Przemek Karnowski, who scored two baskets on a 7-0 run.
At the four-minute media timeout, Gonzaga had the lead again, 72-67.
All drinks in and around press row at NCAA Tournament venues must be in a Powerade cup and security is very serious about this.
Organizers ran out of Powerade cups at halftime, so drinks were poured into cups with the Final Four logo on them.
Not good enough. A security guard created a mini traffic jam by denying entrance to those carrying the wrong cups.
She was doing her job to keep America safe and the folks at Powerade happy.
Gamecocks turning the pressure up
South Carolina went on a 14-0-run to tie the game at 65 at the under-8 minute media timeout.
The Gamecocks showed Gonzaga some different looks on defense, including a half-court zone and full-court pressure.
Gonzaga committed turnovers on three consecutive possessions, partly because they were trying to force the ball inside. When they did get shots, they missed. And when South Carolina missed, they come up with offensive rebounds.
Can the Gamecocks come back from a halftime deficit to win a fourth tournament game?
Fear the hyphen
Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Gross has been the best offensive player on the court today. He has 22 points and has missed only 3 of 12 shots.
The Bulldogs also are getting great play off the bench from Zach Collins. The big man has 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Now is the time
If the Gamecocks are going to make a run, now’s the time. Przemek Karnowski just picked up his third foul and guard Josh Perkins also has three. Gonzaga is deep but the foul situation is worth monitoring.
Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams continues to dominate on the defensive end in the second. He’s been excellent at denying passes and just deflected another one into a teammate’s hands.
Alert Twitter followers pointed out that South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell has been battling illness this week. He missed Thursday’s practice but returned on Friday and said he was fine.
He isn’t playing as well as he has previously in this tournament. That might have to do with illness and it certainly has to do with Williams guarding him most of the time.
Gamecocks still in it
South Carolina trailed by 9 at halftime, but they won’t panic. They won three NCAA Tournament games after they trailed at halftime: against Duke, Marquette and Florida.
Gonzaga starting guard Josh Perkins picked up his third foul in the opening minutes, and Karnowksi has two. This is worth monitoring.
Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski has been effective early, both on offense and defense. When he posts up, he takes up more space than one of the nearby cotton fields. And he does a nice job of protecting the basket, which allows the Zags’ perimeter defenders to play tighter.
Karnowski plays with the Polish National team in the summers and knows former Suns center Marcin Gortat well, even though Gortat, 33, is 11 years older. Karnowski said this week that Gortat, now with the Wizards, has helped him with his post moves over the past several years.
It must have paid off, because Karnowski has excellent footwork and moves well for someone 7-foot-1 and 300 pounds.
Karnowski left the game with 5:12 remaining in the first half after taking a shot to the face by Chris Silva. He did not return in the half.
During warmups for the second half, Karnowski was on the floor with his teammates. He started the second half.
The phrase “controlling pace” doesn’t refer only to teams that like to slow the pace and run a methodical offense. In the first half, Gonzaga controlled pace by pushing the ball up court. They aren’t necessarily shooting layups, but they are getting open looks from the perimeter and avoiding being bumped around by a physical South Carolina backcourt.
Gonzaga is shooting nearly 58 percent and is 5 of 9 from 3-point range. Guard Nigel Williams-Goss has 12 points. The Gamecocks missed their last four shots of the half and were on the wrong end of a 7-0 run in the final two minutes.
South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell has a cool name but not much else going for him so far. He entered this game averaging 25 points a game in the but has scored just five in 17 minutes.
The Gamecocks obviously need to get Thornwell more shots. The Zags’ Johnathan Williams is doing a nice job on Thornwell. Williams, 6-9, has a four-inch height advantage and is concentrating on denying Thornwell the ball. He’s also not leaving Thornwell to help on any other Gamecock. The strategy is working so far.
Massive court, no problem
Coaches and players of all four teams were asked this week about the challenges of shooting on a court plunked in the middle of a 76,000-seat stadium. The depth perception is different, and it can take shooters awhile to adjust.
All teams went through a couple of practices here, which should have helped.
Four minutes into the first semifinal game, Gonzaga and South Carolina are having no problems. They are 6 of 13 from the field, with Gonzaga leading, 8-7. Both teams look a bit nervous handling the ball, and so far Gonzaga’s job have handled the Gamecocks’ relentless half-court pressure well.
Naismith Hall of Fame class announced
We’re about 90 minutes away from the tipoff of the first semifinal game, Gonzaga vs. South Carolina. There are long lines of fans waiting to buy Final Four apparel, and others are starting to filter into University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced its 2017 class today. The 11 members will be inducted during ceremonies in September.
Here is the class:
Robert Hughes, a legendary boys high school coach.
Rebecca Lobo, who played at Connecticut and in the WNBA.
Tracy McGrady, who twice led the NBA in scoring.
Muffet McGraw, three-time national coach of the year from Notre Dame.
Bill Self, two-time AP coach of the year currently at Kansas.
Distinguished committees focused on preserving all areas from the game also selected six directly elected members. They include George McGinnis from the veterans committee; Nick Galis from the international committee; Zac Clayton from the early African American Pioneers Committee, and Mannie Jackson, Tom Jernstedt and Jerry Krause.
It’s game day
The national semifinal games are finally here. If you’re not among the 76,000 fans who will be in attendance in Glendale, you’ll be watching the games on TV or on your iPhone or at some sports bar somewhere.
TV schedule for Saturday: Gonzaga (36-1) vs. South Carolina (26-10), 3:09 p.m., Channel 5 (Play-by-play: Jim Nantz. Analysts: Bill Raftery, Grant Hill. Reporter: Tracy Wolfson); North Carolina (31-7) vs. Oregon (33-5), 5:49 p.m., Channel 5 (Play-by-play: Jim Nantz. Analysts: Bill Raftery, Grant Hill. Reporter: Tracy Wolfson).
Live stream: Go to ncaa.com/march-madness-live/watch for the official ‘March Madness Live’ on your desktop computer or mobile device.
Radio: All three Final Four games will be broadcast live on KGME-AM 910. (Play-by-play: Kevin Kugler. Analysts: Clark Kellogg and John Thompson).