• Tennessee's Rick Barnes is the only head coach to face the four Final Four teams this season. Barnes spoke with SI to provide insight about Gonzaga, South Carolina, Oregon and North Carolina.
By Pete Thamel
March 31, 2017

PHOENIX – Tennessee's Rick Barnes has coached 43 games in 22 NCAA tournaments during his 30 years as a Division I head basketball coach. This is the first time Barnes can recall in all those years playing all four of the Final Four teams in one season. He holds the distinction this year as the only coach to face North Carolina, Gonzaga, South Carolina and Oregon. (He went 0-5, with two losses coming to league rival South Carolina).

Barnes predicts that North Carolina will cut down the nets on Monday night, but only after an epic tussle with Gonzaga. He considers that game a toss up, as he considers these Zags the best Gonzaga team he’s seen Mark Few put together. In an interview earlier this week, Barnes broke down the Final Four for Sports Illustrated.

Why do you like North Carolina to win the title?

I thought all year with the way that they shot the ball and rebounded with their frontline that they were the best team. This is an old school, throwback kind of Final Four. Carolina is experienced and has big guys, and they can really play inside and out. The guy who I really like for North Carolina is Tony Bradley (6’10” freshman averaging 7.3 ppg). I know he doesn’t play a ton, but his upside is truly incredible. I will say this, Joel Berry’s ankle is going to be an X-Factor for them. I can guarantee you that Roy Williams is worried to do death about that kid’s ankle.

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The most impressive win in this whole tournament was Oregon beating Kansas. I’m just telling you, to beat them (74-60) in what was essentially a road game in Kansas City. That showed me that they can beat anyone. Their poise and defense was outstanding in that game. One thing that’s tricky about them is that they change defenses quite a bit. Kansas was averaging like 96 points per game in the tournament and they couldn’t score. Jordan Bell has just been terrific for them. 

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