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National Title Game Preview: Purdue vs. Connecticut

On3 imageby:Brian Neubert04/08/24


NCAA Tournament Press Conference — Purdue coach Matt Painter

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tonight, Purdue meets Connecticut in State Farm Stadium, hoping to earn the first NCAA championship in school history. Standing in the way is a generationally great Husky team looking to repeat as national champ.

DETAILS: Monday, April 8, 2024 | 9:20 p.m. ET/6:20 p.m. local | TV: CBS, TNT and TruTV (Ian Eagle, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson) | Radio: Purdue Radio Network

TeamAPCoachesNETKenPomKenPom Win%


• Purdue does claim a 1932 national title, but this would be its first NCAA Tournament championship. Its the Boilermakers’ first title-game appearance since it fell to UCLA in 1969.

• This will be Purdue’s first and only game this season as a true underdog, both in the betting and predictive-analytics markets.

• Purdue has not lost to a ranked team this season.

• The Boilermakers are No. 6 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage; UConn is 13th. Keep close watch on the glass.

• Purdue is shooting 39.3 percent from three in the NCAA Tournament, mirroring Lance Jones‘ individual percentage.

Fletcher Loyer has emerged as Purdue’s second-leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 11.6 points, shooting 9-of-18 from three and committing just three turnovers in 156 minutes.

Zach Edey‘s numbers in the NCAA Tournament: 28 points, 15.4 rebounds.

Trey Kaufman-Renn has been really good, quietly, the past three weekends, averaging 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in less than 19 minutes. Over 40 minutes, he’s averaging about 19 points and nine rebounds.


• UConn is No. 1 nationally in offensive efficiency — a perch held at times this season by Purdue — according to KenPom, and fourth on defense.

• The Alabama game was close for a while before Connecticut eventually separated in the second half and won 86-72. Otherwise, UConn has steamrolled people, including a 30-point win over San Diego state and a rout of Big Ten runner-up Illinois, highlighted by a 30-0 run after halftime. This is Connecticut’s third Big Ten opponent of the tournament. It also eliminated injury-riddled Northwestern, 75-58, in Round 2.

• If you’re looking for vulnerability, you’ve got to look really hard. But two of Connecticut’s three losses were pretty one-sided outcomes, on the road against both Seton Hall and Creighton. But as Purdue has all season, losses seem to trigger the Huskies, who’ve won 12 games in a row since that loss in Omaha.

• Opponents shoot only 43 percent from two-point range vs. UConn. That’s in part due to the Donovan Clingan factor. The 7-foot-2, 280-pounder has blocked 18 shots the past four NCAA games.

• UConn is more ensemble than star-driven, but if anyone’s their guy, it’s point guard Tristen Newton, who finished second to only Edey in KenPom’s Player-of-the-Year race, driven by that site’s algorithms. The 6-foot-5 grad student averages 14.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and six assists.

• Former Rutgers player Cam Spencer is a 44-percent three-point shooter who Purdue knows all too well. He and forward Alex Karaban (39 percent) make UConn especially difficult to guard. As a team, the Huskies shoot 36 percent from three.

This is Purdue’s greatest concern, has been all season, and now it is the Boilermakers’ everything about a hyper-intense defensive team with gigantic guards and team-wide energy and toughness. We can consider bad shots in this context as the same as turnovers.Purdue and UConn have both played lots of physical teams but probably none like what they’ll see in each other. Rebounding will be critical, as will fouls and Purdue’s guards holding up.Purdue needs to keep UConn out of transition, which relates to the turnover issue, too. It also needs to attach Donovan Clingan to keep him moving around. that counts as pace in some ways.


Purdue’s best has never not been enough this season, but Connecticut is one of the few teams out there whose best would be better than most anyone’s. Purdue’s going to have to play an immaculate game. It’s really difficult to pick against UConn’s dominace and championship experience, but what hasn’t Purdue done this season to be viewed similarly? These are both teams built to wear opponents out. The unstoppable force vs the immovable object. It comes down to the final five minutes.

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