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March Madness: Final Four Predictions

NCAA Mens Final Four

Then there were four….The defending Champion UConn Huskies, the high-octane Alabama Crimson Tide, the bruising Purdue Boilermakers, and the scrappy NC State Wolfpack. Here are my predictions for this year’s Final Four:


#1 UConn Huskies vs #4 Alabama Crimson Tide

UConn’s Path

The UConn Huskies are two wins away from becoming the first school to repeat as National Champions since the 2006 and 2007 Florida Gators. This year’s version of the Huskies is a high-scoring offense that averages 81.4 points per game, with a top-tier defense that allows just 63.3 points per game. The Huskies are arguably the most complete team in college basketball, with a mixture of senior leadership and youth. They’re also one of the elite shot-blocking teams (5.4 blocks per game) in Division I, anchored by 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan, who is projected to be a lottery pick in the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft. Clingan averages 2.5 blocks per game, which ranks him 8th in the nation.

Aside from Clingan, they have multiple scoring threats who average ten or more points per game: Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer, Alex Karaban, and Stephon Castle. One concern for the Huskies to monitor against Alabama is Cingan’s ability to guard the perimeter and avoid foul trouble. His stats suggest he should be able to do that successfully, as he averages just two fouls per contest.

Alabama’s Path

The Huskies are up against a high-octane offense in the Alabama Crimson Tide, which averages 90.6 points per game– first in Division I Basketball. However, they rank as one of the worst-scoring defenses in the nation, allowing 81.1 points per game. Their style mirrors that of the late 2000s Phoenix Suns and late 2010’s Houston Rockets led by Mike D’Antoni. Similar to those teams, the Crimson Tide uses an analytics-based system that encourages high three-point attempts, dunks, and layups but discourages mid-range shots and post touches. Their analytics-based system is reflected in the three-point and free-throw shooting, 37 and 77 percent, respectively. They’re one of the most aggressive teams in terms of three-point shot attempts, shooting 30 per game, which is 4th most per game in Division I.

Considering that UConn is the most complete team in the Final Four and they’ve dominated their competition, I like UConn advancing to the National Championship Game and eventually cutting down the nets on April 8.

Prediction: #1 UConn Huskies over #4 Alabama Crimson Tide

Seeding fact: the last #1 overall seed to win the National Championship was 2013 Louisville (later vacated).


#1 Purdue Boilermakers vs #11 NC State Wolfpack

Purdue’s Path

The Purdue Boilermakers are on a mission to prove their doubters wrong after an embarrassing first-round loss in last year’s tournament to #16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson as a #1 seed. They resemble the 2018-19 Virginia Cavaliers in that regard, who suffered the same fate in the 2018 tournament. This year’s Boilermaker squad is top-ten in terms of scoring offense, averaging 83.8 points per game. They’re also an above-average defense that holds opposing offenses to 69.4 points per game. The Purdue defense is anchored by 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, who also leads all of Division I in points per game, averaging 24.6 points per contest. The reigning National Player of the Year is on pace to win the award in back-to-back seasons and will be a handful for opposing teams to game plan against moving forward in this tournament.

Aside from guarding Edey, the battle in the trenches and guarding threes will be a challenge for whoever faces this Purdue team. They collect 40.6 rebounds per game (10th in Division I), and they lead Division I in three-point percentage shooting at a 41 percent clip. However, the Boilermakers are just an average free-throw shooting team (72 percent). They are still fighting the allegations of being unable to rise to the occasion when it matters the most but are two wins away from changing that narrative.

NC State’s Path

The NC State Wolfpack are currently on a 9-game winning streak and are back in the Final Four for the first time since 1983, which was also the last time they won a National Championship. They’re an above-average offense that averages 76.3 points per game but allows 72.2 points per game. Their leading scorer is D.J. Horne, who averages 16.8 points per game. However, their offense runs through D.J. Burns, NC State’s 6-foot-9, 270-pound big man. The South Carolina native has drawn comparisons to former NBA players Zach Randolph and Glen “Big Baby” Davis for his ability to score and pass out of the post and his footwork at his size. The matchup between Burns and Edey should be one to keep an eye on. However, it’s more likely that their junior forward Ben Middlebrooks will be matched up against the 7-foot-4 Edey to save Burns some foul trouble.

Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, you can’t teach height. Therefore, I predict  NC State’s Cinderella run will come to an end in the Final Four against the Purdue Boilermakers.

Prediction: #1 Purdue over #11 NC State

Seeding fact: At least one team seeded #11th or worse has reached the Final Four in nine out of the last ten tournaments.

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