NCAA Basketball

Wait a minute! Corruption in college basketball? Who knew?

Wait a minute! Corruption in college basketball? Who knew?

Wait just a minute. What did I just hear? A major scandal involving college basketball? Money being funneled through coaches, agents, shoe companies, money managers to recruits?

Who would have ever expected something like this?

Well, only those with even a passive interest in college sports. Folks, college basketball has been dirty for decades and I think by now just about everybody is aware of that. But with the news of this scandal today I think we're going to hear more about it that ever before. This time it's not some soft NCAA investigation into a rogue program, it's an FBI probe three years old covering the gamut -- from shoe companies to the players. People are going to go to prison before this is finished.

It's about time somebody looked into this mess.

I have been in the business of following sports and writing about them for a long time and I have to go back at least 30 years to remember the first time I heard a story about illegal inducements being paid for a university to obtain a high school basketball player. Since then, there has been story on top of story. Former college coaches laugh about them over dinner and drinks. Why didn't I write about them? There was never proof. I didn't want to get sued -- and these guys have learned to cover their tracks pretty well. The NCAA has never seemed serious about putting a stop to it.

The first story I heard was about a well-known player who was recruited by a college entirely without contact with that player's high school coach. Which seemed crazy. But what happened was the player's AAU coach and personal workout coach was the one in contact with the colleges. He brokered the deal. That coach eventually hand delivered the player to a college and guess what?

That AAU coach soon showed up as a paid counselor/coach at the college's summer camp for kids -- at a rumored salary of $10,000 a week, which was way above the going rate for such things.

I've heard stories of players getting cars, money being passed through the hands of girlfriends or relatives and even brown paper bags full of cash being left for players at a secret location.

It's a nasty business that turned me off to college basketball -- even college sports in general -- years ago. And now, perhaps, there might be a chance to dive into the cess pool and see what can be done about the problems.

 

OSU men's basketball team reported safe following attacks in Barcelona

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Oregon State Athletics

OSU men's basketball team reported safe following attacks in Barcelona

The Oregon State Men’s Basketball team is reported to be safe following an attack in Barcelona, Spain.

It is being reported that a white van jumped up onto a sidewalk in Barcelona's historic Las Ramblas district before plowing through a crowd of pedestrians and tourists. Police in Barcelona are investigating this as a terrorist attack, while local media outlets are reporting as many as 13 people have dead, and 50 or more are injured.

The attack happened directly in front of the Beavers’ team hotel, according to head coach Wayne Tinkle.

Oregon State University released the following statement:

            “The Oregon State men's basketball team's traveling party is reported to be safe Thursday following an incident in Barcelona, Spain.  The incident occurred near the hotel where the team is staying.

The Beavers are touring Spain through Aug. 25 playing five exhibition games. OSU officials are determining the remaining schedule. Updates on the team's schedule will be provided when available.

The Oregon State University community extends its thoughts and prayers for all those injured and affected by this incident.”

We will keep you updated as any new information become available.

UPDATE: 

Coach Tinkle and Beaver Athletics posted the following video on Twitter earlier this afternoon. 

Oregon State Athletic Director Scott Barnes also took the time to speak to the media today, listen to his statement in the video below, courtesy of Danny Moran of the Oregonian

Brooks, Bell and Dorsey should return to improve and finish this thing off right

Brooks, Bell and Dorsey should return to improve and finish this thing off right

GLENDALE, Ariz. - It might be a pipe dream, but let's at least entertain the possibility that Oregon stars Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey all could return next season.

All three left the door open following the team's 77-76 loss to North Carolina Saturday in the Final Four played at University of Phoenix Stadium. 

"I'm not too sure," Brooks said when asked about his plans. "I'm going to go through the process and take my time with it."

Bell and Dorsey made similar statements. 

If they were to return, the Ducks could very well be voted as the preseason No. 1-ranked team in the nation and picked as the favorite to capture the 2018 national championship. 

This season will go down as one of historical significance for a program that hadn't made it that far since winning it all in 1939. That didn't lessen the sour feelings in a dejected locker room following defeat. So why not return to take care of unfinished business?

Money is always an allure, along with the dream of playing in the NBA. All of that would still be there for all these three in 2018 with only the fear of injury serving as a potential deterrent. 

There's something else, also; the possibility that none of the three is truly ready for the NBA, or will have much of a career in the association to begin with. 

Bell has played his way into being projected by some mock drafts as a potential late first-round pick. Brooks is projected by most to join senior Chris Boucher in the second round. Dorsey's hot postseason has landed him on some second-round lists. Each could conceivably improve his stock by returning and increase his chances of going higher in the 2018 draft. 

That all, of course, is easy to write from a laptop. Each has a lot of issues to consider, including what's best for their respective families. But from a pure basketball perspective, there are ample reasons for all three to return, but chances are that just one, maybe two, decide to come back. 

Here's a look at the probability each man returning for another season at Oregon: 

Dillon Brooks, Jr., forward, projected second-round pick: Brooks actually should probably leave. He's accomplished so much already and will go down as one of the program's greats. He improved his outside shooting over last season, and he demonstrate great fire, rim attacking ability and all-around defensive skills. He likely won't be a starter for a good NBA team, but he could contribute as a bench player and have some productive years. Returning to Oregon for the Pac-12 player of the year and second-team All-American, and duplicating that success, could thrust Brooks into the first round nexts year.

What will he do?: 80 percent chance he leaves: Brooks explored the draft last season before wisely returning. He's tasted injury this season (foot) and probably won't want to risk a more serious setback next season. 

Jordan Bell, Jr., forward, projected first or second round: Bell has the best pro potential of the three. He is already an NBA-caliber rebounder and shot blocker. His offense, however, won't cut it at the next level. He did demonstrate dramatic improvement in that area this season. Should he return to add more post moves and demonstrate an ability to stick the short jump shot that many teams give him, Bell could play his way into the lottery. 

What will he do?: 50/50. Bell has improved every season and would take another big step if he were to return. It's difficult enough for big men to adjust to the NBA, let alone one with a very marginal offensive game. Bell should come back next season and raise his 10.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this season to a cool 15 and 10 next season. 

Tyler Dorsey, So., guard, projected second-round pick to undrafted: Dorsey, who explored the draft last season, appeared to be a lock to return after a wildly inconsistent season before he went off during the postseason, raising his stock. He crushed it in the Pac-12 Tournament and during the first four games of the NCAA Tournament, averaging 23.5 points per game while hitting on 57.5 percent of his three-point attempts. His showing should be enough to make him a second-round pick. However, there are red flags. First off; he had 14 games during the regular season where he made three or fewer field goals with six games of one or zero shots made. Did his supreme tournament showing erase all of that from the minds of scouts? Probably not. Plus, at 6-4 he struggled mightily against North Carolina's perimeter length. The 6-8 Justin Jackson and the 6-6 Theo Pinson were able to prevent Dorsey from getting his shot, harassing him into a 3-of-11 shooting night. Dorsey did, however, finish with 21 points thanks to his ability to get to the free throw line and make all 12 of his attempts from there.

Dorsey isn't a point guard and might not be athletic or big enough to consistently get his shot in the NBA. He does, however, potentially have a future as a three-point marksman off the bench, but only if he becomes more consistent from long distance. 

He could develop in that area next season. 

What will he do?: 25 percent chance he leaves. Dorsey needs to stay another season to show that he can do over an entire season what he did during the postseason. If Brooks leaves, Dorsey becomes the lead scorer and could raise his average from 14.6 this season to 20, or more. Even if Brooks stays, Dorsey could raise his scoring average to 18 simply by drastically reducing the number of horrid performances he puts forth. 

---

Oregon's lineup next season would be ridiculous if all three returned to play alongside guards, Payton Pritchard, Casey Benson, and a hopefully an improved Kavell Bigby-Williams in the middle. Plus, the Ducks welcome in a strong recruiting class led by five-star, and probably one-and-done guard Troy Brown. 

It would be a roster that could certainly get back to the Final Four and bring back a companion for hte 1939 trophy.

But it probably won't happen.

Or could it?

Oregon's comeback falls short, lose 77-76 to North Carolina

Oregon's comeback falls short, lose 77-76 to North Carolina

North Carolina 77, Oregon 76 

How Oregon lost: No. 3 Oregon (33-6) had a chance to steal this game in the end but twice failed to secure an offensive rebound after No. 1 North Carolina (32-7) missed four free throws in the final six seconds of this Final Four matchup Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium.

North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks missed two free throws with the Tar Heels up 77-76 with 5.8 seconds remaining but Theo Pinson grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Joel Berry II, who was then fouled by Tyler Dorsey with 4.0 seconds remaining.

Berry then proceeded to miss two free throws, but this time it was Meeks who who grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Pinson, who ran out the clock for the win. 

That ended what had been a gutty performance by the outmatched Ducks, who were down by as much as 10 in the second half. But despite poor overall performances by Dorsey and Dillon Brooks, the Ducks were able to battle back and had a chance to win it late. 

North Carolina will face No. 1 Gonzaga in the championship game. The Bulldogs won 77-74 over No. 6 South Carolina in the day's first game.

The first half produced some odd basketball. Oregon struggled to hold on to the ball while NC couldn't make shots. At one point early, UO had committed six turnovers and NC was shooting 17.6 percent from the field. Oregon fought of its turnoves to build a 30-22 lead with 4:07 remaining in the half.  The Tar Heels then began making shots but Oregon continued to cough uup the ball. The Ducks finished with 12 turnovers in the first half. NC raised its shooting percentage to 40 percent by making seven of their last eight attempts, and consequently went on a 9-4 run to close the half and lead 39-36. 

Dorsey, clearly disrupted by NC's perimeter length on defense, missed all four of his shot attempts in the first half to finish with four points on free throws. Brooks also struggled, making 2 of 7 shots for six points. 

Oregon wasn't helped by an apparent ankle injury to Jordan Bell, who left the game for a couple of minutes before returning, but appeared to be bothered by the injury. 

Pritchard scored the team's first five points but three personal fouls limited him to six minutes of action in the first half. 

Meeks had 25 points and 14 rebounds. Justin Jackson scored 22 for North Carolina. 

What it means: Oregon advanced to its first Final Four since 1939 but came away empty. Still, this was the greatest season since then and is something the program can be proud of. Still, coming so close to defeating the Tar Heels here tonight will sting for some time. 

Key sequence: NC led 56-49 with 11:57 remaining in the game. At this point, Dorsey and Brooks are a combined 3 of 14. UO was 4 of 14 as a team in the half, including 1 of 8 on threes. 

Dorsey finally hit his first three-point shot while in transition off of a miss by Jackson to make it 56-52. But Pinson answered with a wide-open three for NC. The Tar Heels went on to methodically build a 71-62 lead with 5:54 remaining.

But the Ducks would not go away. Dorsey hit some free throws - he made 12 of 12 on the night - and Ennis made a three. Dorsey hit one of his three three-point field goals and then made another to make the score 77-74 with 46 seconds remaining.

Keith Smith got a made layup off of an assist from Ennis following a missed Pinson jumper and that set up the final seconds of action.

High-flying Ducks: Ennis had 18 points on 7 of 19 shooting. Jordan Bell gave the Ducks 13 points and 16 rebounds with four blocked shots. 

Fowl play: Dorsey scored 21 points but made just 3 of 11 shots. Brooks finished with 10 points on 2 of 11 shooting and had five turnovers before fouling out late in the second half.

His presence was missed down the stretch. 

Oregon committed a whopping 12 turnovers in the first half. 

Oregon shot 37.9 percent from the field. 

Up next:  Oregon will wait and see if Dorsey, Bell and/or Brooks head for the NBA along with seniors, Chris Boucher and Dylan Ennis. If two of the three return, the Ducks could be back here again next season. 

Gonzaga advances to NCAA finals after 77-74 win over South Carolina

Gonzaga advances to NCAA finals after 77-74 win over South Carolina

GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Gonzaga Bulldogs held on to a slim lead late to defeat South Carolina, 77-74, in the Final Four and earned their first ever trip to the NCAA championship game Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium. 

Gonzaga will play the winner of today's second game between No. 3 Oregon (33-5) and No. 1 North Carolina (31-7). 

Killian Tillie made two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining to give No. 1 Gonzaga (37-1) a 77-73 lead that held up in the final moments. Up until that point, it appeared that the No. 6 Gamecocks (26-11) could steal this one from coach Mark Few and the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga led 65-51 with 10:55 remaining in the second half and appeared to have this game wrapped up when the Gamecocks went on a 14-0 run to tie the game at 65 apiece with 7:39 remaining. PJ Dozier's jumper tied the game. After a Gonzaga timeout, Rakym Felder made two free throws to give South Carolina the lead, 67-65. 

Gonzaga responded by regaining control of the game with a three-pointer from Zach Collins and then a dunk from Przemek Karnowski to take a 70-67 lead that grew to 74-69 with three minutes remaining.

South Carolina got to within 74-72 before Felder missed a jumper that would have tied the game with 1:36 remaining. Zach Collins got the rebound for Gonzaga and make both free throws then seconds later blocked a layup attempt by Gonzaga's Sindarius Thornwell with 1:21 remaining. 

Later, Dozier missed a three-point attempt and then a shorter jump shot following an offensive rebound with the Gamecocks down three. 

With 12 seconds remaining and the score, 75-72, Gonzaga, South Carolina had the ball and a chance. But the Bulldogs intentionally fouled Thornwell with three seconds remaining in the game to prevent the Gamecocks from getting off a three-point attempt.

Thrornwell made the first then missed the second, resulting Tillie getting the defensive rebound, getting fould and then making two free throws to ice the win. 

Nigel Williams-Goss led Gonzaga with 23 points and six assists. Collins had 14 points and 13 rebounds off of the bench. 

South Carolina shot just 37.9 percent compared to 48.3 for Gonzaga. Chris Silva led the Gamecocks with 13 points and 13 rebounds. 

Gonzaga led just 38-36 after South Carolina's Justin McKie made a three-pointer with 2:27 remaining in the half of a back-and-forth affair. Then the Bulldogs caught fire. Collins rebounded a Jordan Mathews miss and scored on a layup to jump start 7-0 run to close the half. Williams-Goss made a jumper and then Mathews hit a three-pointer with 48 seconds remaining to give Gonzaga a 45-36 lead at halftime.  

North Carolina hopes to avoid making the list of #ThingsJordanBellCouldBlock

North Carolina hopes to avoid making the list of #ThingsJordanBellCouldBlock

GLENDALE, Ariz. - You know you've got it going on when someone in the social media world creates a meme about you achieving superhuman feats. Take the shot-blocking prowess of Oregon forward Jordan Bell, for instance.

A search of #ThingsJordanBellCouldBlock on Twitter produces memes of Bell blocking a variety of items, including: A meteor from hitting the earth, the Titanic from sinking, the Death Star from destroying a planet and the Auburn kicker from making the winning field goal against Oregon in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game.

What's not available yet are images of Bell blocking the shots from Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, Austin Jackson and Luke Maye. They make up North Carolina's five players 6-foot-8 or better that will be attacking the 6-9 Bell when the Tar Heels (31-7) and Ducks (33-5) meet in Saturday's Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Bell, who had eight blocks last week against Kansas in the Elite eight, will have to contend with all five of those Tar Heels, and a few more from their 10-man rotation, in order for the Ducks to win a game in which North Carolina has a decided size advantage. The Tar Heels plan to give him plenty of opportunities. NC's game plan is to attack Oregon's lone impact big man. 

“We’re going to try to go at him and hopefully get him in foul trouble,” Maye said.

“The best thing to do to a shot blocker is to just go right at him,” said Hicks. “Don’t give him a chance to block it.”

Many teams have tried to do just that and have failed. Namely the Jayhawks. They kept going inside and Bell kept rejecting their shot. Those Bell didn't block, he either altered or impacted with his mere presence. 

“He’s a grown man in the paint,” Bradley said.  “It’s going to be a great challenge."

Oregon coach Dana Altman said Bell has taken his game to another level since the Pac-12 Tournament when the team learned that 6-10 senior forward Chris Boucher would be lost for the season. Junior Kavell Bigby-Williams offers size at 6-10, but hasn't shown that he is ready to make big contributions in big games.

In UO's first game without Boucher, the Ducks lost 83-80 to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game while having some trouble inside against the Wildcats. That has changed since, and Bell is the key reason why. 

"That dude is a freak," NC forward Theo Pinson said. 

Hicks said what makes Bell special is his ability to anticipate the shot, and "having the ability to jump quick." He said shooters have to be mindful of Bell after beating the man guarding them. 

“Most of (his blocks) come from the weakside so you’ve got to be aware of that," Hicks said. "You’ve got to know that you have an open teammate when you drop to the basket because he’s going to help. "

Junior All-American Justin Jackson said the Tar Heels must be savvy against Bell. 

"I think there are going to be a lot of times where there are going to be pump fakes involved, or drop offs involved," Jackson said. "It will be key to try to get him in foul trouble." 

The problem there is that Bell averages just 1.7 personal fouls per game, has fouled out only once this season while reaching four fouls only once since November, and has has committed just three personal fouls in four NCAA Tournament games with 12 blocked shots.

"I think part of it has just been his focus," Altman said. "And he's risen to the occasion. I think he knew when Chris went down that there was going to be more pressure on him to perform. And fortunately for us he's handled that pressure very well."

The bottom line for UO is that if Bell can be disruptive on defense, the Ducks have a chance to win. If not, and if NC's bigs can get to the basket and score, Oregon's season ends on Saturday. 

Ducks aren't done writing their story

Ducks aren't done writing their story

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Oregon traveled to Arizona for the Final Four with a friendly reminder onboard of the heights the basketball program has achieved in the past and what the goal is this weekend in the desert. 

The Ducks brought with them the 1939 national championship trophy won by the "Tall Firs" back when the team was actually called the Webfoots. 

Current players took photos of and with the trophy, touched it and allowed its inspiration to soak in. 

"It’s a motivation to bring another one back," UO junior forward Dillon Brooks said.

As sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey put it, the Ducks aren't ready to close this chapter. 

“We’re definitely making history and that should be talked about, but we have to keep writing the history and win the national championship," he said. "We’re not done, yet, and we know that as a team."

No. 3 Oregon (32-5) will play No. 1 North Carolina (31-7) at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium. 

For the Tar Heels, who have now been to 20 Final Fours with five national championships, it's a chance to atone for last year's heartbreaking, 77-74 loss to Villanova in the championship game on a buzzer beater. 

“They are experienced and they want to get back to that game," Dorsey said.

Oregon has already tasted its own form of redemption by reaching the Final Four after losing badly last season to Oklahoma in the Elite Eight. As for the Tar Heels' goals, Brooks said they aren't Oregon's concern. 

“We faced a lot of hot teams, a lot of teams that had motivation to go far, like Michigan, Kansas and Rhode Island," Brooks said. "We just try to crush that all down and try to play our game and really be confident in ourselves.”

UO coach Dana Altman said the Ducks have done well sticking to their routine. 

"It was a little easier the last two weekends because there wasn't all the hype and the media and so forth," he said. "But we're going to try to keep it as close to our routine as possible, and try to get the guys to focus on the game Saturday. And we get to practice here when we get done with all this in just a little bit and hopefully get them refocused and ready to go for North Carolina."

Oregon isn't losing out on any fun. They have enjoyed themselves. The idea is to not allow the fun to interfere with the goals.

“Now we have to set a new mindset,” UO forward Jordan Bell said. “It’s another four-team tournament. We’ve got to win this tournament and if we win it, it’s finally done and we can celebrate it.”

The 1939 trophy serves as a reminder. 

“It was a great feeling to have that there,” Brooks said.

A companion for that national title trophy can't be had on Monday, however, if the Ducks don't win on Saturday. 

“We can be out of here Saturday if we lose that game," Dorsey said. "So, we’re going to enjoy the process. We’re going to soak it all up. It’s an experience of a lifetime that many people don’t get. You definitely have to enjoy it in the moment.”

North Carolina has a plan for slowing down Dorsey and Brooks

North Carolina has a plan for slowing down Dorsey and Brooks

GLENDALE, Ariz. - North Carolina has watched the game video. The Tar Heels have poured over the statistics. They know the deal regarding Oregon stars, Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks. Slow them down during Saturday's Final Four matchup, or forget about playing on Monday. 

The how is the problem. The plan: Try to keep the ball out of their hands to begin with. 

“For us, we have to try and make it as hard as possible for him to catch it,” North Carolina junior forward Justin Jackson said. “It’s extremely hard to stop somebody who’s got it going like that when they have the ball.”

If No. 3 Oregon (33-5) is going to upset the No. 1 Tar Heels (31-7) at the University of Phoenix Stadium the Ducks must receive high-end performances from Dorsey, a sophomore, and Brooks, a junior.

"They're so athletic," NC coach Roy Williams said of Oregon. "I try to figure out who the dickens do I have that can guard them. They present a lot of problems."

The two have carried the team offensively. Dorsey, who after an inconsistent regular season that saw him make three or fewer field goals 14 times, including six outings of one or zero field goals made, has been on fire since the Pac-12 Tournament. He's averaging 23.5 points per game on 62.3 percent shooting, including 57.8 percent from three-point range. 

"He's been on a tear, no doubt about it," UO Coach Dana Altman said.

Brooks, the Pac-12 player of the year, is averaging 17.6 points on a modest 40 percent shooting, but he has hit several clutch shots along the way and is the team's best all-around playmaker. 

“It’s going to be tough," North Carolina junior forward Theo Pinson said. "Big-time scorers. They can shoot the ball at a high level. They are one-on-one players, so at the same time, you’ve got to take on that challenge. Get put on an island and see what you can do.”

It might take many Tar Heels on that island to deal with Dorsey, who hasn't met a shot he didn't like in this tournament. 

“A guy that hot, you’ve just got to be there and make it tough for them,” Pinson said.

That comes through pressure and disruption. Don't, Pinson added, let him get into rhythm. 

“At the same time, he’s making shots all type of ways, so it doesn’t even matter,” Pinson said. “You just try to be there as much as you can.”

On the other end, Oregon will have its hands full with Jackson, who at 6-foot-8 is one of the more versatile wings in the country. The first-team All-American is averaging 18.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. 

“Great player," Brooks said. "One of the best players in the country. He’s versatile, he's 6-8, he can shoot it from anywhere on the floor. He has length.”

Jackson and Pinson will look to use that length to disrupt Dorsey and Brooks. How well that works could decide the game. 

Gonzaga inspired by former UO player Greg Bell's book: "Water the Bamboo"

Gonzaga inspired by former UO player Greg Bell's book: "Water the Bamboo"

GLENDALE, Ariz. - On any given day, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will remind his team to always strive to get at least one percent better each day. To, "water the bamboo."

It's a reference to a motivational book called "Water the Bamboo," written by Few's good friend and former college roommate at Oregon, Greg Bell, who played guard for the Ducks basketball team from 1981-1985. 

"Basically the whole premise and the thought and the major point behind it is bamboo, when you plant it, you water it and water it -- and I'm going to kill this -- but for four years or something, nothing happens," Few said Thursday during a press conference at the University of Phoenix Stadium, site of the Final Four. "But then in the first year it grows -- after that, that subsequent year -- then it grows 50 feet or something...So it's about, you know, the process of preparation and physically, mentally showing up, doing your job with practice and focusing in on the things that you can control. We call that the process. And then eventually you're going to reap the rewards of that."

Close enough. The overriding principle is to pay attention to the little things, focus on the details and allow oneself to flourish overtime in any aspect of life, professionally or personally. Bell, a motivational speaker who specializes in individual growth and team building, published his book in 2009.  

Bell, who holds political science and law degrees from the Oregon and has appeared on CSN's Ducks Hoops Tonight, said he often has dinner with Few when he and Gonzaga are in Portland to face the Portland Pilots. They did the same prior to the Bulldogs' 83-64 win at Portland on Jan. 23. But this time, Few had the wild idea.

"Typically we go grab Thai food with Mark the day before the U of P game," Bell said. "Rarely do we talk hoops, just family and kids. But this year after dinner he asked that I say a few words to the team. I happened to have some "Water the Bamboo" wristbands in my car and I talked to them after their film session."

Bell said his message is more about the watering (the process) than the bamboo (the result). 

"It's about showing up everyday," Bell said. "Focus on the watering and the results will take care of itself."

The players loved the message Bell delivered.

"You’ve got to take it one day at a time and get better everyday," redshirt sophomore guard Josh Perkins said when asked about Bell's speech to the team. "Small opportunities, I think people overlook. I think that concept helps you make the best of every situation and improve in every way. Because if you get one percent better everyday, you get better.”

Junior guard Silas Melson, out of Portland's Jefferson High School, said Gonzaga players constantly remind one another to "water the bamboo." Some even tweet motivational notes using #WaterTheBamboo 

"Throughout the whole season it might take a long time to reach your peak as a team but by March you want to meet your peak and that’s why we keep watering that bamboo," Melson said.

Now Gonzaga (36-1) is in its first ever Final Four where it faces South Carolina (26-10) on Saturday. 

So, has "water the bamboo" worked for Gonzaga?

"I just want to tell everybody, I give 100 percent to "Water the Bamboo" and the book and the approach," Few said with a laugh while plugging the book for his friend. "It's a life changer."

Hyperbole aside, Few, named AP Coach of the Year, said he believes his team certainly benefited from Bell's talk. 

"Look, to have Greg, I mean, he was in my wedding, one of my closest friends, to be able to come talk to our team in Portland and give us the book and give us the little bracelets and all that was great," Few said. "And I think it resonated with them. The thing he said that I wholeheartedly believe that we kind of used as a mantra this year was just try to get, like, one percent better each week. Just one percent better. Whatever it's at. And if you can do that every week, well, then we have something."

Players still wear the wristbands.

“No matter what happened the day before you want to grow from it," Melson said. "Or if you’re having a bad day you want to grow.”

Bell gave a talk to the Oregon football team in 2009 that then coach Chip Kelly talked about during a press conference. Bell has also given talks to the Portland Trail Blazers. He started Coaches versus Cancer program that North Carolina coach Roy Williams is involved with, according to Bell. He said that he has had great conversations with Oregon coach Dana Altman, who has opened his door to all former players.  The Ducks face the Tar Heels in the second Final Four game on Saturday. 

That gives Bell connections to three of the four teams at the Final Four. It also sets up a possible conflict of emotional interest should Oregon and Gonzaga advance to Monday's championship game.

"I would be so conflicted," Bell said. "But it's like if your brother played against your alma mater you'd root for your brother. In so many ways I want it to happen, but in so many ways I don't."

No. 3 Oregon will face storied No. 1 North Carolina in the Final Four

No. 3 Oregon will face storied No. 1 North Carolina in the Final Four

The Oregon Ducks went through a legendary Kansas program to reach the Final Four where they will face an even more storied college basketball program in North Carolina at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Final Four in Phoenix, Ariz.  

The No. 1 Tar Heels won the South Region today by defeating No. 2 Kentucky, 75-73 in Memphis, Tenn.  

Oregon (33-5) put on a spectacular performance while upsetting the No. 1 Jayhawks (31-5) in the Midwest Regional finals Saturday in Kansas City, Mo.  The Ducks might need an equally great showing to do the same to the Tar Heels (31-7). 

North Carolina is one of the deepest teams in the nation, often playing a 10-man rotation, as it did Sunday against the Wildcats (32-5). 

Plus, the Tar Heels have tons of front court depth, something UO sorely lacks. The Ducks play just two players taller than 6-foot-7, junior forward Jordan Bell (6-9) and junior forward Kavell Bigby-Williams (6-10). Only Bell is a consistent performer. So much so that he was named the Midwest Regional MVP

The Tar Hells, coached by Roy Williams (814-216 overall, 396-115 at NC), rotate five players that stand 6-8 or better: Senior Kennedy Meeks (6-10), freshman Tony Bradley (6-10), senior Isaiah Hicks (6-9), junior Justin Jackson (6-8) and sophomore Luke Maye (6-8).

Maye hit the game-winning jump shot with .3 seconds remaining to defeat Kentucky. Jackson is an All-American averaging 18.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Meeks gives the Tar Heels 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. 

Despite all of the team's size, NC averages a modest three blocked shots per game. Bell had eight blocks against Kansas and is averaging 2.3 on the season. 

North Carolina has an elite point guard in Joel Berry II, who is averaging 14.7 points and 3.6 assists per game. 

NC's size certainly will provide a test inside for the Ducks. But Oregon can counter with the hottest offensive player in the nation in sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey, and Pac-12 player of the year, junior forward Dillon Brooks. 

History of success is certainly on North Carolina's side. The Tar Heels, producer of legendary stars like James Worthy, Michael Jordan and Vince Carter, will be going to their 20th Final Four seeking their sixth national title. Most recent titles came in 209 and 2005. NC lost the national championship game last season to Villanova. 

The Ducks will be making their first trip to the Final Four, but second to the semifinals. When the Ducks won the 1939 national title there was no formal Final Four round held at a single site.