History to be made in unexpected NCAA Final Four matchups


Dramatic finishes in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds have four regional champions facing off in a historic Final Four the NCAA Tournament has yet to see in years.

Those four teams -- Oregon from the Midwest, North Carolina from the South, Gonzaga from the West and South Carolina from the East -- will now compete for the chance to play in the NCAA Championship on April 3 in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Out of these finalists, North Carolina is the only team to have made it this far in the past 78 years. In fact, the Tar Heels were in the NCAA Championship just last year -- though they lost a heartbreaker to Villanova.

Oregon's last appearance in the Final Four was in 1939, the only year the Ducks went on to win the title. South Carolina and Gonzaga have never made an appearance in this nail-biting round of college basketball in the history of the tournament.

The South Carolina Gamecocks are far and away the most surprising member of this year's Final Four. The Gamecocks entered the tournament as a No. 7 seed. In order to get this far, they have had to knock out No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Baylor and, most recently, No. 4 Florida.

Generally, the seven seed is the second-most likely upset in the opening round of the competition.

In the first round this year, South Carolina took down No. 10 seed Marquette easily with a 20-point win. In the Sweet Sixteen round, the Gamecocks defeated Baylor by the same margin.

Only once since the tournament's expansion in 1985 has a No. 7 seed won the championship. That honor belongs to the 2014 Connecticut Huskies.

In order to get a shot at the title, South Carolina will have to go through Gonzaga.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the West and were heavily favored to make it this far. The team has been fairly successful as of late, with a spot in the Sweet Sixteen last year and an Elite Eight appearance in 2015.

Surprisingly, in 20 appearances since 1995, its 2015 Elite Eight spot was the farthest the school has ever gone -- leaving it thirsty for a championship.

The Bulldogs haven't struggled much during this year's tournament, other than a close 61-58 victory over No. 4 seed West Virginia. Out of the remaining teams, Gonzaga has the highest chance of winning it all.

But while oddsmakers are calling Gonzaga the safe bet, the team has a tough competitor in the North Carolina Tar Heels.

While it's no shock that the Tar Heels, another No 1. seed, earned an appearance in the Final Four, the team's biggest triumph of the tournament may have been their most recent game against Kentucky.

UNC was tied with No. 2 Kentucky with seven seconds remaining on Sunday night in a matchup that seemed destined for overtime. With three seconds on the clock, North Carolina sophomore Luke Maye got the ball, squared up, and nailed the shot -- all but assuring a win for his team with just 0.3 seconds left in the game.

None of the Tar Heels' other matchups were quite as exciting. They were able to roll past No. 16 Texas Southern, No. 8 Arkansas and No. 4 Butler with ease in the earlier rounds of March Madness play.

North Carolina has six NCAA Tournament championships in its storied history, with the most recent coming in 2009 over Michigan State.

UNC will be facing off against the Oregon Ducks for a spot in the championship game.

The Ducks made history as the first team to ever win an NCAA Championship when the tournament began in 1939, but they haven't been back to the title game since.

In the Elite Eight, the No. 3 seeded Ducks had no problem upsetting the Kansas Jayhawks, the Midwest's No. 1 seed. Oregon's toughest game came against No. 7 seed Michigan, a 69-68 nail-biter of a victory.

South Carolina and Gonzaga, two teams with a combined zero appearances in the national championship game, face off on Saturday at 6:09 p.m EST. Oregon will attempt to upset North Carolina later on that evening, with tip-off scheduled for 8:49 p.m.

Sports fans have seen a lot of insanity this year: Golden State blowing a 3-1 lead. The Atlanta Falcons giving up 25 points and losing the Super Bowl in overtime. The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years. Villanova crushing North Carolina at the buzzer.

Lucky for fans, this Final Four is primed to add even more drama to that list.