Who are the X-Factors heading into the NCAA men’s Final Four?
Nigel Williams-Goss – Gonzaga
Williams-Goss is among the most well-rounded floor leaders in college basketball, with season averages of 16.7 points (49.0 FG, 36.7 3Pt, 88.2 FT), 5.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists (to 2.1 turnovers), 1.8 steals, and 1.1 treys in 32.4 minutes per night. Going up against an elite defense, the junior guard has a good chance to improve his draft stock. However, he’ll need to be efficient and make some outside shots in order to do so. Listed at 6-4, 200 lbs. with a 6-6 wingspan, Nigel has a slight height advantage in the backcourt, but Gamecocks senior point guard Duane Notice (6-2) is stronger (225 lbs.) – and the head of the sizable South Carolina snake.
Maik Kotsar – South Carolina
At 6-10, 245 lbs., the freshman from Tallin, Estonia is one of two Gamecocks (the other being sophomore Chris Silva) who possesses any hope of stopping Gonzaga’s highly-skilled wrecking ball big man, Przemek Karnowski, who stands 7-0 and weighs 300 lbs. Silva is a better shot-blocker and rebounder than Kotsar, but Chris is listed at 223 lbs. and plays fewer minutes per game. If South Carolina can’t slow Karnowski down in the post, the first Final Four game could be a bloodbath of epic proportions.
Tyler Dorsey – Oregon
After cracking the 20-point plateau six times in 32 games as a freshman, Dorsey had just four such showings in the first 31 games of 2016-17. Since then, he has gone for at least 20 points in the last seven matchups while averaging 23.6 points (62.4 FG, 57.7 3Pt, 67.6 FT), 4.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.4 steals, the only blemishes being a subpar free-throw percentage and 2.0 turnovers per game. The Ducks are going to be a bit undersized against a huge Tar Heels opponent, especially without Chris Boucher. Dorsey hasn’t been receiving much attention when it comes to the NBA Draft, with DraftExpress ranking him No. 51 among sophomores. But that could change by the end of the weekend.
Kennedy Meeks – North Carolina
Meeks was my X-Factor for UNC heading into the Sweet Sixteen due to a definitive advantage down low against the Butler bigs. Joel Berry II should be able to get the best of Ducks freshman Payton Pritchard, and fellow Tar Heel Justin Jackson has a clear advantage in the length department. But Oregon’s Jordan Bell has been a force at center during the NCAA tournament, and he is sky-rocketing up draft boards as a result. If Meeks wants to maintain his status as a likely second round selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, he’ll need to do well against Bell.