The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

HATCH: Men’s Final Four preview

NC State vs Purdue, Alabama vs UConn
Courtesy of the NCAA
The March Madness logo

The Final Four consists of two of the best teams all season in college basketball, UConn and Purdue, and two of the hottest teams in the country, Alabama and NC State. UConn and Purdue are head and shoulders above the rest of the field in the tournament, but in a one-game, winner-take-all situation, Alabama can get hot from three and give UConn a game and NC State has a one-of-a-kind player in DJ Burns who has a similar game to the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic.

People wonder how Alabama and NC State made the Final Four, but they are here for a reason, and they are both playing like two of the best teams in the country. 

11 NC State vs. 1 Purdue (TBS, Saturday at 3:09 p.m.) 

Senior DJ Burns Jr and NC State are on a miraculous run, winning nine straight elimination games leading back to the ACC tournament. During that run, the Wolfpack beat Duke twice, who is a four seed, and North Carolina, who is a one seed.

They have their toughest test yet, facing the Purdue Boilermakers and 7-foot-4 senior center Zach Edey. The Toronto native leads Division I in points per game, averaging 25, and is second in rebounds per game averaging 12.2. The Boilermakers also have sophomore Braden Smith, who is tied for second in the country in assists per game, averaging 7.5.  

Both teams do not have a lot of depth, NC State plays seven players, and Purdue plays eight. The key to the game is going to be the battle down low between Edey and Burns. Edey is a traditional five, who posts up on the block and tries to back down his opponent, using his height. Burns is more of a well-rounded, modern stretch five.

Burns will occasionally catch the ball on the perimeter and distribute the ball from inside out to his guards when he attracts a double team. When teams try to stop him without a double-team, Burns goes to work. 

DJ will exploit Edey’s weakness by bringing him out of the paint and opening the middle of the court. That allows NC State’s guards to cut to the paint and run the baseline. The Wolfpack’s problem will be trying to stop Edey and limit fouls on the defensive end of the court. NC State can give Purdue a game and has a shot to pull off the historic upset, but this is where the road ends for the Wolfpack. 

Prediction: Purdue over NC State 

4 Alabama vs. 1 UConn (TBS, Saturday at approx. 5:49 p.m.) 

The UConn Huskies are a wagon in the NCAA tournament. With a 30-0 run to begin the second half against the 3-seed in the East region, Illinois, the Huskies have been up at least 30 points in every game they have played in the tournament this year. The closest margin of victory in the last two tournaments was a 13-point victory against Miami (FL) in last year’s Final Four. Their team is led by Wooden Award Finalists Tristen Newton and Donovan Clingan. They will need to find a way to slow down Alabama’s high-clip, three-point shooting. The Crimson Tide shot 44.4% from three in the Elite Eight against Clemson, making 16 3-pointers. Alabama does not have a big like the other three teams remaining, so Clingan will be a problem for the Crimson Tide. 

Prediction: UConn over Alabama 

Usually, there are no upsets in the Final Four or title game. An 11-seed has made the Final Four six times but has never advanced to the title game and Alabama has an inconsistent defensive performance. Also, UConn and Purdue have looked like the clear two best teams throughout the tournament. The biggest question is: can anybody give UConn a competitive game? I do not believe anyone can. 

National Title Game Prediction: UConn over Purdue 

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About the Contributor
Jett is a sophomore broadcast news major from Prosser, Washington. He has worked as a sportswriter at the Daily Evergreen since spring 2024.