GoldandBlack.com Simulcast: Purdue Final Four Preview

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It’s Final Four Week for Purdue and GoldandBlack.com’s Mike Carmin, Alan Karpick and Brian Neubert break down the Boilermakers’ season to date and look ahead to the Final Four in Glendale, Arizona. Purdue will face No. 11 seed North Carolina State on Saturday, April 6 at 6:09 p.m. ET.

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More on Purdue’s opponents

NORTH CAROLINA STATE WOLFPACK

When it closed the regular season on a four-game losing streak to enter the ACC Tournament with a 17-14 record, few expected NC State to reach the conference tournament’s semifinals, let alone the NCAA Tournament. However, the Wolfpack went on a miraculous run to win the ACC Tournament and clinch a bid to the Big Dance.

NC State comfortably moved past Texas Tech before an overtime win over Oakland moved it to the second weekend. From there, Kevin Keatts’ squad rolled past Marquette and Duke to advance to the program’s first Final Four since 1983, when Jim Valvano’s Wolfpack won the national championship.

Senior guard DJ Horne leads NC State in scoring, averaging more than 16 points per game. He shoots 41% from three-point range on very high volume, and he is clearly the best shooter on the roster. Big man DJ Burns Jr. has become a memorable part of this year’s NCAA Tournament, fresh off a 29-point performance against Duke in the national semifinal.

Local fans may recognize Indianapolis native Jayden Taylor as a contributor for the Wolfpack, and starting guard Casey Morsell appeared against Purdue as a Virginia Cavalier back in the 2019 Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

NC State Roster | NC State Schedule

UConn coach Danny Hurley (USA Today)

CONNECTICUT HUSKIES

The reigning national champions, UConn, ripped through the NCAA Tournament a season ago and has shown no signs of slowing down this time. On their way to last year’s title, the Huskies won each game by 13 or more points. Through four games in this year’s tournament, their closest margin of victory has been 17 points.

UConn shredded Stetson before comfortably moving past Northwestern in the opening weekend. Then, in a rematch of last year’s national title game, UConn blasted San Diego State before using a 30-0 run to down Illinois and advance to another Final Four.

All five starters average in double figures for the Huskies, led by guard Tristen Newton. While not a great three-point shooter, Newton leads the team with 15 points per game. He’s joined in the backcourt by slasher Stephon Castle and sharpshooter Cam Spencer, a Rutgers transfer who sank the game-winning shot when the Scarlet Knights handed Purdue its first loss of the 2022-23 season.

After blocking five shots against Illinois, UConn center Donovan Clingan may be the second-best center in the nation behind Purdue’s Zach Edey. A hypothetical national championship matchup between the two would be an intriguing showdown.

The Huskies head to Phoenix trying to become the first program since Florida in 2006 and 2007 to repeat as national champions. They enter the Final Four with the number one offensive efficiency and number four defensive efficiency nationally per KenPom.com.

UConn Roster | UConn Schedule

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

Alabama will participate in this weekend’s Final Four for the first time in program history, marking a significant moment in the school’s basketball history, most of which has come recently. Despite entering last season’s NCAA Tournament as the top overall seed, a Sweet 16 loss made the season’s end underwhelming.

Nate Oats and his analytics-driven approach have made the Crimson Tide into one of the more dangerous teams in the country, as a three-point explosion at any time can allow the Tide to run away with a game. Alabama plays at one of the fastest paces in the sport and shoots three-pointers on over 46% of its possessions.

A transfer-heavy team, the program’s top three scorers all came from the mid-major level. Ohio transfer Mark Sears leads the way with 21.5 points per game. Shooting 50% from the field, 43% from deep and 86% from the free throw line, he’s established himself as one of the nation’s best players. Sears scored 35 points in Alabama’s 92-86 loss to Purdue back in December in Toronto.

Aaron Estrada joins him as a critical transfer in the backcourt, while Grant Nelson leads the charge up front. Six Crimson Tide players have taken more than 100 three-pointers this season, and they make their threes at a 37% clip.

While the offense can be explosive, the knock on Alabama comes on the defensive end. Per KenPom, Alabama heads to Phoenix as the number three offense in the nation but just the 104th-best defense.

Alabama Roster | Alabama Schedule

Related: Three Thoughts from the Weekend | Purdue beats Alabama in Toronto

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