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Final Four Preview: Purdue vs. North Carolina State in the national semifinal

On3 imageby:Brian Neubert04/06/24


Pre-NC State — Purdue Coach Matt Painter

GLENDALE, Ariz. — For the first time in 44 years, Purdue takes a Final Four floor Saturday, as the Midwest Regional-champion Boilermakers meet shockingly hot South Regional champ North Carolina State in the national semifinal at State Farm Stadium.

DETAILS: Saturday, April 6, 2024 | 6:09 p.m. ET | TV: CBS, TNT and TruTV (Ian Eagle, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson) | Radio: Purdue Radio Network

TeamAPCoachesNETKenPomKenPom Win%
NC State634318%


• Purdue’s playing for a chance to play for its first-ever NCAA championship Monday night against either Connecticut or Alabama.

• This will be Purdue’s only game of the season vs. an ACC opponent, long a mainstay on the schedule due to the now-defunct Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Zach Edey has averaged 30 points and 16 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.

• Purdue has yet to allow more than 70 points in an NCAA Tournament game this season. Opponents are shooting only 40 percent.

Braden Smith averages 9.3 assists in six postseason games.

Fletcher Loyer is Purdue’s second-leading scorer in the postseason, at 10.2 points. He’s 8-of-16 from three.


• On the verge of missing the tournament at the end of the regular season and likely changing coaches, the Wolfpack has won nine consecutive postseason games, winning the ACC Tournament, then the South Regional. It’s the sort of story that only the NCAA Tournament gives us.

• NC State was 17-14 at the end of the regular season, but “that team doesn’t exist anymore,” as Matt Painter has told his team. Thus, looking at NC State’s metrics from this season as a whole might be misleading.

Nevertheless …

The Wolfpack is 40th in offensive efficiency and 44th defensively, per KenPom. Again, that’s the whole season. Those aren’t bad numbers, just not what you might expect at this stage of the season.

It should be noted that NC State opponents have scored fewer than 70 points six times during the nine-game win streak, including wins over higher-seeded Texas Tech, Duke and Marquette. Two of the other three games went to overtime.

The Wolfpack is a high-pressure defense built to force turnovers and disruption. They’ll get up in Purdue’s guards full-court and in halfcourt offense. Its last six opponents have shot below 40 percent.

Meanwhile, on offense, they are top-10 nationally in turnover percentage.

• Big man DJ Burns is averaging 18.3 points per game and shooting 73 percent in the NCAA Tournamt. The 6-foot-9, 275-pounder also averages 3.5 assists and says he welcomes double teams. He is not really a low-post offensive player as much as he is one who’ll dribble into back-down post-ups, but also face up. Defensively he has significant imitations, but NC State aims to pressure the ball elsewhere enough to cover him up. Burns previously went to Tennessee and Winthrop.

• Guard DJ Horne is a multi-level scorer who shoots 41 percent from three and averages 16 points, He’ll be Purdue’s perimeter priority defensively. He’s a few weeks removed from scoring 29 against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament. He previously played at Illinois State and Arizona State.

• NC State starts four graduate students and has nine transfers on its roster,

• NC State is not a great rebounding team, but forward Mo Diarra is on a tear, having just set an ACC Tournament record with 60 rebounds in five games. Only twice during the nine-game win streak did he grab fewer than a dozen rebounds.

• This will be NC State’s 41st game of the season.

Now more than ever. This has been the one thing that has gotten Purdue beat this season, and NC State will try to be one of the few teams to successfully rattle Purdue’s guards. All year, this has been more about Purdue than the opponent.Burns and Edey may not go head to head the whole game, but Purdue needs to make him run around as much as possible, tire him and break his rhythm when he dribbles his way into post-ups.Purdue has to keep a body on Mo Diarra, really hit the offensive glass and really be on top of long rebounds. It’s al easier said than done, but this should be an advantage for the Boilermakers.


Sometimes in the NCAA Tournament, there are bigger things at play than just matchups and bodies of work, and NC State is on one of those magic carpet rides. But Purdue seems to have a real purpose, too, and it still has Zach Edey. Take NC State in its current form lightly at your own risk, but everything points to Purdue here.

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