As the biggest favorites crumbled in critical moments, the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament was living up to the “March Madness” moniker. Undersized one seeds like Villanova and Kansas couldn’t hang with the physical nature. Below average defenses such as Duke and UCLA were exploited. Arizona’s horrific late game execution cost them a golden opportunity to reach the Final Four. North Carolina and Gonzaga have managed to persevere as lone true favorites.

Unlike many other powerhouses, they don’t have any hotshot freshman players or potential lottery picks. Both teams are built on unity, size, and experience. It has helped these two prestigious programs reach the Final Four in a chaotic tournament.

Size matters

Instead of relying on a superstar guard or terrific shooters, both teams will bully their opponents inside. It starts with rebounding and creating second chance opportunities.

North Carolina averages the most rebounds per game, while Gonzaga is ranked sixth in the country. Roy Williams’ team has four hard working big men that contribute on a consistent basis. Besides dominating the glass, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks provide senior leadership. Tony Bradley is developing into a promising big man. After coming off a double double against Butler, Luke Haye achieved legendary status with a game-winning jumper against Kentucky.

Gonzaga has a unique blend of players in their frontcourt. Przemek Karnowski’s massive frame makes him a matchup nightmare. The 300-pound center is a classic big man that overwhelms his opponents with standard post moves and excellent body control. Gonzaga never had a versatile forward like Jonathan Williams, who adds much-needed athleticism and explosiveness. Zack Collins has been quiet in the tournament, but the freshman possesses the most upside between both teams. His shot blocking ability is an integral part of Gonzaga’s defensive excellence.

Relentless point guards

To win a national championship, a dependable point guard is usually required. Both teams feature battle-tested point guards that don’t shy away from contact. Joel Berry and Nigel Williams-Goss are outstanding fearless leaders. Neither player has played particularly well in the tournament. That shouldn’t disregard their timely plays and ability to handle constant pressure. Joel Berry has been hampered with an ankle injury.

After struggling in North Carolina’s near collapse against Arkansas, the junior point guard responded by scoring 26 points against Butler in the Sweet 16.

Williams-Goss turned the ball over eight times, while shooting under 32 percent in narrow wins over Northwestern and West Virginia. The well-rounded point guard always manages to contribute in other areas. Producing eight rebounds and four assists per game is an impressive stat total for a six-foot-three player.

Williams-Goss eventually rediscovered his stroke. He scored 23 points in a dominant victory over Xavier. Gonzaga hasn’t had a dynamic point guard like him in quite some time.

Veteran players

Both teams are filled with upper classmen. North Carolina’s starting lineup suffered the ultimate heartbreak against Villanova last season. They have regrouped in terrific fashion. Justin Jackson’s transformation into a multidimensional scorer gives them a true number one option. With four talented big men and Berry’s resilience, they are great complimentary pieces for a sharpshooter like Jackson. Theo Pinson is a solid role player that doesn’t need to score to make an impact.

Gonzaga isn’t as experienced with Collins and Josh Perkins playing key roles in their rotation. The other five players are upper classmen. Mark Few made important transfers for Jordan Matthews, Williams-Goss, and Williams. Recruiting three productive players from underachieving programs have greatly benefitted them. Matthews hit a tournament saving three-pointer in their victory over West Virginia. They have turned Gonzaga from a solid tournament team to a certified title contender.

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