Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, AZ

National Semifinals: Saturday, April 6

National Championship Game: Monday, April 8

BetXchange Championship Odds:

UConn (East No. 1 Seed)

UConn is the favorite headed to Phoneix for good reason. The tournament’s No. 1 overall seed was barely tested as they cruised through the East Regional.

Any feats of a No. 16 over No. 1 were put to bed early as they crushed Stetson by almost 40. They then won by 17 over Northwestern before a hugely impressive 30-point win over No. 5 San Digo State in the Sweet 16. They were equally impressive in the Elite 8, destroying the region’s No. 3 seed as they smashed Illinois 77-52.

The Huskies have so many weapons. Guard Tristen Newton is a cheat code at 6-foot-5 and is a triple-double waiting to happen. His size will be a nightmare for the ‘Bama guards in the Final Four matchup.

They also have another guard in Cam Spencer, who has the highest offensive rating in the country in terms of efficiency, and Donovan Clingan is a true center at 7-foot-2 and 280 pounds.

Clingan changes every game with his size and rim-protecting ability, and if he stays out of foul trouble, then UConn is my pick to win this tournament.

Purdue (Midwest No. 1 Seed)

The second No. 1 seed to make it to the Final Four is the Purdue Boilermakers of the Big Ten. At one point this season, Purdue was the No. 1 ranked team in the country, so it is no surprise they made it to Phoenix out of the Midwest Regional.

Purdue hasn’t been quite as dominant as UConn in reaching this stage, but not by much. Grambling State and Utah State didn’t get close to the Boilermakers, while their 80-68 win over Gonzaga is impressive given the Bulldogs’ tournament experience. They also took out Tennesee 72-66 in the Elite 8, a good win against a team many had as a slight dark horse to win the whole thing.

Purdue runs a three-guard offense against which you must force turnovers to win. The Boilermakers are 29-0 on the year in games where they turn the ball over less than 20% of the time. This is a huge stat going into their game against NC State, a team with a turnover rate of less than 15% in its last seven games.

Alabama (West No. 4 Seed)

Alabama is the sneaky team in this year’s Final Four. Their path here was almost boring, with a dominant – if high-scoring – win over Charleston in the Round of 64. They were also dominant against No. 12 Grand Canyon before their big win as they took down No. 1 North Carolina by two points. Beating Clemson (No. 6) by seven points propelled them to the desert.

They rely heavily on guard Mark Spears’s efficiency. Spears is a 43% three-point shooter, and his ability to force fouls will be important as he hits 85% of his shots from the charity stripe. They need the three ball to fall against UConn, as that is easily their best path to victory against the best team in the nation.

NC State (South No. 11 Seed)

NC State has no business still being in this tournament. The No. 11 seed in the South matched the lowest-ever seed to reach a Final Four, and it must be noted that no No. 11 seed has ever played in the National Championship game.

The Wolfpack didn’t finish the regular season strong enough to suggest this run was coming. They lost their last four ACC regular season games but then went on a wild run in the ACC Tournament to win it as the No. 10 seed. This was their first ACC crown since the late 80s.

They then got past an overseeded Teas Tech squad in the first round before needing overtime to slip past No. 13 seed Oakland in the ROunf of 32. Weirdly, that was their toughest test to date, with No. 2 Marquette and No. 4 Duke being beaten by Nine and 12 points, respectively.

I have a feeling their story ends in the Final Four. NC State doesn’t match up well against Purdue, and they don’t have the familiarity of the opponent they enjoyed with their Elite 8 win over the Blue Devils.


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