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Final Four Preview: Sunday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels


It’s finally here.

Six days after the Final Four was set, things will kick off here in Phoenix on Saturday night.

Let’s take a look at the two games:

No. 1 GONZAGA (-7) vs. No. 7 SOUTH CAROLINA, 6:09 p.m., CBS: Gonzaga is the heavy favorite in Saturday’s opener, and rightfully so, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that South Carolina will give them a fight, not the least of which is the fact that the Gamecocks are just so good and so disruptive defensively. The Gamecocks don’t play the same way that West Virginia does — their pressure exists in the half-court where West Virginia plays in the full court — but they do the same things, overplaying every passing lane and daring an opponent’s play makers to be able to beat their defenders off the bounce. To put it far too simply, Frank Martin bets on the fact that his players, defensively, are better.

And the Zags, as good as they are and as great of a year as Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins have had, don’t really have guards on their roster that are great in one-on-one situations like that, particularly against defenders that are more athletic than them. Take West Virginia: Perkins was invisible and Willaims-Goss played about as poorly as he is capable of playing.

Gonzaga has an incredible size advantage over South Carolina, one that Mark Few should be able to capitalize on, but I fully expect the Gamecocks to muck this game up. The Zags should be just fine playing in a game like that — they are, after all, the nation’s best defense — which is why the key for South Carolina is going to be whether or not Sindarius Thornwell can take advantage of the fact that Gonzaga doesn’t really have anyone that can guard him. South Carolina is going to struggle to score, but if they can run things through the Thornwell, they should be able to score enough to keep this thing close.

PREDICTION: South Carolina (+7)

No. 1 NORTH CAROLINA (-4.5) vs. No. 3 OREGON, 8:49 p.m., CBS: The first question that has to be answered here is whether or not Joel Berry II is actually healthy. He said he was 85 percent on Thursday as he battles a pair of injured ankles, and that will be critical to a UNC team that relies so much on him. As Berry goes, so goes UNC, and if he’s at all limited in tonight’s nightcap, it will be a brutal blow for the Tar Heels.

But it won’t change the fact that Roy Williams’ club has so much more size in the paint than the Ducks. Oregon plays small-ball. Without Chris Boucher available, they’ve relied even more heavily on a lineup that features Dillon Brooks — who is more of a shooting guard than anything else — at the four. It’s lethal offensively when hit creates mismatches. But it also leaves Oregon susceptible to teams with a bigger front court, and North Carolina’s front court is as big as anyone’s. Can Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks force Oregon to play big, or will UNC, who is the best offensive rebounding team in the country, be forced to play a smaller lineup to defend Brooks?

I would expect Oregon to spend quite a bit of time in a zone as a result, which means that the Tar Heels are going to have to make perimeter jumpers on Saturday. If they’re going down, and the Heels are getting to the offensive glass, it could be a long day for Oregon.

PREDICTION: North Carolina (-4.5)

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.


Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.

Report: Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all pass on sponsoring Lonzo Ball

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Lonzo Ball will enter his rookie season in the NBA without a sponsorship deal from Nike, Adidas or Under Armour, only his family’s Big Baller Brand apparel.

That, according to a report from ESPN, is due to his father LaVar’s insistence that Lonzo not sign with one of the three major apparel companies unless they opted to sign a licensing deal for Big Baller Brand merchandise instead of outfitting Lonzo with their own gear.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

LaVar had been representing his son in the negotiations, and is now expected to reach out to other shoe brands, including Chinese apparel companies like Li-Nang.

Big Baller Brand is a startup apparel company launched by LaVar Ball. They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, with most of their products costing at least $50.

Lonzo declared for the NBA Draft after an all-american season that saw him and the UCLA Bruins flame out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16. UCLA lost to Kentucky in that game, and Lonzo had a quiet night while his point guard counterpart, De’Aaron Fox, went off for 39 points.

Lonzo is a likely top three pick in the NBA Draft and, potentially, could still end up going No. 1. He has two younger brothers as well. LiAngelo will be a freshman with the Bruins next season while LaMelo just finished his sophomore season in high school. Both will attend UCLA.