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Predictions for both Final Four semifinal games

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Posted at 6:14 PM, Mar 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-01 22:47:33-04

A basketball blueblood, a pair of first-timers, and a team that hasn't been this far in nearly 80 years.

The 2017 Final Four field is as diverse in recent memory. The North Carolina Tar Heels are one of the nation's most respected programs, and they'll face an Oregon Ducks team making its first Final Four appearance since it won the national championship in 1939. They'll meet after the Gonzaga Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks face off in a battle between two teams making their first-ever Final Four appearance.

Who advances to Monday night's national championship game? Here are predictions for both of Saturday's matchups at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, courtesy of ABC15's Shane Dale and Jason Snavely.

Gonzaga vs. South Carolina (Tipoff at 3:09 p.m. Arizona time)

Shane Dale's pick

We keep doubting the Gamecocks, and the Gamecocks keep winning. Led by SEC leading scorer Sindarius Thornwell, they've come from behind to win three of their four tournament games, including arguably the most surprising result of the tourney, an 88-81 win over No. 2 seed Duke in the second round.

So, here's where I risk looking stupid by doubting South Carolina once again. Why? Because they have yet to face a team in the tournament with Gonzaga's size.

Led by 7-foot-1, 300-pound Polish beast Przemek Karnowski, the Bulldogs were 10th in the NCAA this season with a plus-7.2 rebound margin per game. Factor in Gonzaga's stellar 3-point shooting (12 of 24 vs. Xavier in the Elite Eight), and you're looking at a team that South Carolina will be unable to keep up with for a full game. Gonzaga 78, South Carolina 67

Jason Snavely's pick

The underdog vs. underdog matchup of this year’s Final Four. Top-seeded Gonzaga may be favored in this game over the 7 seed South Carolina, but in recent years the Bulldogs are far more used to being the team everyone bets against. This year, I think they’re a safe bet -- at least in this game.

With a couple of 7-footers down low and a rising star in Nigel Williams-Goss running the point, I think the Zags cruise past South Carolina. It was an impressive run for the Gamecocks, but it will come to an end on Saturday in Glendale. Gonzaga 82, South Carolina 69

North Carolina vs. Oregon (Tipoff at 5:49 p.m. Arizona time)

Shane Dale's pick

The Ducks have managed to prove doubters wrong by making a Final Four run despite losing rebounding and shot-blocking machine Chris Boucher to an ACL injury just one week before the tournament began. Pac-12 Player of the Year Dillon Brooks is a clutch shooter, but the story of the tourney for Oregon is double-double machine Jordan Bell, along with former UA commit Tyler Dorsey, who has scored at least 20 points in all four tournament games.

But Oregon will feel Boucher's absence when they face the Tar Heels, who are by far the nation's top rebounding team and arguably the nation's deepest. The Ducks will struggle to find an answer for senior forward Kennedy Meeks, who is averaging 13 rebounds in UNC's last three games. North Carolina is a 10-deep team that will wear down the Ducks after 40 minutes of basketball. North Carolina 85, Oregon 78

Jason Snavely's pick

While many hoops fans across the country snoozed through the majority of the Oregon Ducks’ 33 wins this season (west coast time, don’t blame you), all eyes will be on the Ducks as they face top-seeded powerhouse North Carolina. This matchup will be as good of a clash as Carolina blue and Oregon green on the color spectrum.

Oregon's Dillon Brooks, this year’s Pac-12 MVP, will thrive on Saturday night's national stage. With the improved play of both Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell, things should open up quite nicely for a big game from their junior leader. Also, UNC’s Joel Berry has been hobbled by a couple sore ankles recently, so he may not be at full speed.

It’ll be close, but with the help of a career-defining performance from Brooks, the Ducks pull off the upset -- no ifs, ands or flops about it. Oregon 75, North Carolina 73