Sindarius Thornwell and three other Final Four players to watch


By Shannon Ryan - Chicago Tribune



One prediction can be made about this unpredictable Final Four.

Seemingly every year, a player becomes a household name — Kemba Walker or Kris Jenkins, for example — for his NCAA Tournament theatrics.

Here are four players to watch this year.

Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina: Nobody has made more of a name for himself thus far in the tournament than Thornwell.

For his ability to carry South Carolina through a magical championship run, Thornwell has already drawn comparisons to Walker, who led Connecticut to the national title in 2011.

Thornwell, a South Carolina native and 6-foot-5 senior guard, is averaging nearly 26 points per game through four tournament games. He shot 61.5 percent from the floor in the Elite Eight against Florida — 77.8 percent on 2-pointers.

“Very dangerous,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “I mean, his whole package is very dangerous. Just kind of the intensity that he brings to the game.”

Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: The junior guard is a national player of the year contender.

But through the first three games of the tournament, Williams-Goss has shot just 1 of 8 on 3-pointers. He scored only nine points against South Dakota State in the first round and 10 points against West Virginia’s stifling defense in the Sweet 16.

Williams-Goss appeared to have a breakout in the Elite Eight against Xavier, scoring 23 points and shooting 4 of 7 on 3-pointers.

He’ll need to manage another tough defense when the Zags face the Gamecocks.

Tyler Dorsey, Oregon: It’s hard to mention Dorsey without teammates Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell. The trio has been superb through the tournament.

But Dorsey, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard, understands good timing.

His shooting has been red-hot in the tournament.

He shot 69.2 percent against Iona in the first round, then 90 percent against Rhode Island, 46.7 percent against Michigan and 69.2 percent against Kanas. He’s shooting 65.4 percent on 3-pointers.

Dorsey’s season average is 14.5 points per game, but he has scored no fewer than 20 points in the tournament.

Justin Jackson, North Carolina: The ACC player of the year is a key part of the Tar Heels’ run.

The leading scorer on a veteran-led North Carolina team, Jackson knows what it’s like to be on this stage. Last season in the Final Four, the 6-foot-8 junior forward scored 16 points in the Final Four against Syracuse. In the championship loss to Villanova, he was held to nine points.

Through the tournament, he is averaging 19.8 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 46.7 percent from the floor.

Keep an eye on how he matches up with Pac-12 player of the year Brooks of Oregon.

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By Shannon Ryan

Chicago Tribune