An exciting weekend of college basketball across the States of America has brought the Final Four to Phoenix, AZ. The 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has reached the end of its monthlong saga, with history potentially on the line for one of the teams and Cinderella dreams still alive for others. It will all start next weekend, on Saturday night, as the final two teams are determined.

UConn Huskies Looking to Repeat

On Saturday, the University of Connecticut Huskies were looking to make history. No team that was the defending champion had returned to the Final Four the next season since 2007, when the University of Florida Gators pulled off the trick (and, it must be noted, repeated as National Champions). Faced with the chance to make history, the Huskies pounded the University of Illinois, defeating the Fighting Illini 77-52. In doing so, UConn punched the first ticket to Phoenix on Saturday night as champions of the East Region.

The surprise matchup was in the West Region, where sixth-seeded Clemson and fourth-seeded Alabama were the finalists. In a hard-fought battle, the Crimson Tide survived the game sending the Tigers back to South Carolina in winning 89-82. The only bracket to see both the #1 and #2 seeds survive to meet in the regional final was the Midwest, where Purdue had to work hard in putting away the Tennessee Volunteers, 72-66. In doing so, the Boilermakers shook off the “monkey on their back” of having lost to three consecutive double-digit seeds (#13 North Texas in 2021, #15 St. Peter’s in 2022, and #16 Farleigh Dickinson last year) in the NCAA Tournament.

Arguably the most stunning result was in the final game of Sunday’s slate that filled out the Final Four. The darling of the tournament so far has been the North Carolina State Wolfpack, who won five consecutive games in five days to win the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament (otherwise they would NOT have been selected for this year’s NCAA Tournament. Three more wins during this year’s “March Madness” saw the Wolfpack on the precipice of an unlikely journey west – and it would come against the bluest of the “blue blood” in college basketball.

Going up against their conference rival, the Duke Blue Devils (one of the teams they beat on the way to the ACC Championship), NC State did not start well, falling to six points back at the half. The Pack would dominate in the second half, however, outscoring the Blue Devils by nearly twenty points on their way to a resounding 76-64 victory over their conference foe.

Handicapping the Final Four

It will be a tale of two Davids taking on two Goliaths when these four teams arrive in Phoenix next weekend to play down to the champion of the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. On one side, you have the East champion UConn squaring off against the West champion and upstart Alabama. On the other side of the bracket, it is South surprise NC State attempting to stop the Midwest champion, Purdue.

According to HardRockBET, both underdogs are going to have a tough time taking down their opponents. NC State is a 9.5 dog to the Boilermakers, in part because nobody has figured out what to do with Purdue C Zach Edey. The Wolfpack may have the answer in their own “man in the middle,” DJ Burns, Jr. Burns (pictured) is listed in the program at 6’9” and a very lenient 275 pounds, and he has basically pounded into submission everyone who has come up against him. Whoever wins the Edey/Burns battle will win this game – and while I like Purdue to win, I think the Wolfpack covers the spread.

A comparable situation is found in the fight between UConn and Alabama. ‘Bama is an 11.5-point dog to the Huskies in the second game, and this is one that the touts might have correct. UConn has looked to be on a mission to repeat as the National Champion since the start of this season and they have had few pitfalls along the way. While Alabama might hang for a bit with the Huskies, in every game of the NCAA Tournament UConn has pulled away and buried their opposition in the second half – I think that is going to happen again.

With that, you have Purdue versus UConn for the National Championship…but let’s let the teams enjoy their Regional Championships and the trip to Phoenix before we discuss the eventual winner!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *