Everybody is buzzing about South Carolina's defense. South Carolina's defense is justifiably second in the nation. Not only are they 4th in forcing turnovers, but they also have a strong half-court defense. Despite the rate at which they force turnovers, teams average 17.9 seconds per possession, 298th in the NCAA. With a top-10 perimeter defense, and top 30 interior defense, not many of those shots go in either. Gonzaga would seem statistically to be a team equipped to protect the ball, led by one of the most highly rated point guards in Williams-Goss. They are also 33rd in turnovers allowed. However, they have a conference which is generally unable to apply significant pressure. Whenever Gonzaga faces applied pressure, they have struggled. Vs BYU, they lost 79-71 in a game that was not even close to going over the 164 point total. In that game, they turned the ball over 16 times. Against Northwestern, they escaped with a victory, despite late Northwestern pressure, that amounted to 14 turnovers for Gonzaga. Gonzaga barely survived West Virginia, despite turning it over 16 times. I am not convinced in Gonzaga's ability to be secure with the ball because they have yet to show that they can handle pressure. Gonzaga does have a strong interior, but it is not just the guards who have been turning it over. Gonzaga has been unable to get settled in offense and establish a rhythm against teams that apply pressure.
But Gonzaga's defense is actually better, ranked first. They don't apply pressure, they won't force many turnovers. Their opponents average 18.2 seconds per possession, which is 328th in the NCAA. South Carolina has enjoyed some high-scoring efforts, especially in the second half of games. They scored 44 in the second half vs Florida, they scored 88 against Duke and 93 against Marquette. A significant part of that scoring has been forcing turnovers allowing for points in transition. But the most significant part of that scoring has been their ability to bully opposing teams in the interior. In the three games in which they went over the point total, they were able to drive straight to the basket without much of a problem. Their half-court offense is horrendous: 294th in two-point %, and 245th in three-point %. This is why they wait until the second half to score. They had about 34 shot attempts in the first half against Duke but only 23 points. Turnovers gives them the opportunity to put up more shots, and then they finally, finally, find a rhythm on offense. They are also able to dominate the opposing rim. Against the more physical defenses, the point total went under and they struggled to get into a rhythm offensively. They lost 64-53 in the conference game vs Alabama, they beat Baylor in the tourney 70-50, despite overachieving from behind the arc with 8 threes, something they likely won't do against Gonzaga's 4th best perimeter defense, which has been successfully tested against some effective three-point shooting teams in the WCC like Santa Clara and Saint Mary's.
I don't see how South Carolina scores on Gonzaga. Yes, they will likely force 15 turnovers. However, they also forced 13 turnovers vs Alabama and 16 against Baylor and the point total still went under. More decisive, therefore, is the opposing team's physicality. South Carolina will not be able to attack the rim successfully or otherwise establish a rhythm offensively against the big boys that Gonzaga has to offer, 7'1 300 pound Karnowski, 7'0 230 pound Collins, even 6'9 228 pound Williams. Gonzaga's interior is tall and big. They are first in opposing 2 point %, so they protect the rim, and they do it without fouling--as they are 16th in opposing free throw attempts. There is good reason why SMC's star center Landale always struggled against Gonzaga, scoring 10 points, while committing 4 fouls in their last matchup. Even if SC does get to the free throw line, they are 185th in FT %. So, SC will get some points off turnovers, but I don't see how else. Gonzaga is also 45th in opposing rebound %, so I don't foresee the kind of second-chance opportunities for SC that they achieved against, for instance, Florida. Gonzaga, because of their strong interior, is different from SC's previous opponents. Gonzaga will also struggle to establish a rhythm against SC's harassing defense. In the games where Gonzaga has put up a significant amount of points, they have been able to keep better control of the ball: they scored 83 against Xavier while committing only 10 turnovers. They scored 74 against a slow-paced SMC while committing only 9 turnovers. They will turn the ball over, and I don't see them touching 70. I also don't see SC touching 70. Like with the Alabama and Baylor games, they will not be able to force the amount of turnovers to generate the kind of offensive production that they did against teams with weak interior defenses.
I think Gonzaga will score more than SC. A fancy way for saying that I think Gonzaga will win. They are 5th in offensive 2 point % and they will get SC's big men in foul trouble, for SC is 334th in opposing FTA. So, SC's defensive aggressiveness will get them some points on offense, but it may cost them more. Gonzaga is a respectable 71st in FTA. They attempted 25, 32, and 36 in their last three games and I think they get on the line plenty. They have the edge in FT %, offensive rebound (for second-chance points). But most importantly, they have a superior half-court offense with the talent to score enough. These three "little" things will, on the offensive side, help secure them the cover. Moreover, their defense, on the other hand, will overwhelm South Carolina's meager half-court offense. I see this playing out similarly to SC's 64-53 loss against Bama in the Conference tournament. I recommend FG under of 138, first half under (considering how slow SC starts off offensively, and that Gonzaga will need time to be able to establish any sort of rhythm) and Gonzaga -6.5.