Busting Brackets

Purdue vs Connecticut: 2023-24 NCAA Tournament game preview, TV schedule

Connecticut guard Cam Spencer (12) and center Donovan Clingan (32) celebrate during the Final Four
Connecticut guard Cam Spencer (12) and center Donovan Clingan (32) celebrate during the Final Four / Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY

Purdue meets Connecticut in a highly-anticipated matchup for the national championship. Will the Huskies repeat as champions or can the Boilermakers pull off the ultimate bounce-back title?

TV schedule: Monday, April 8, 9:20 pm ET. TBS

Arena: State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

Arguably the two best teams in the nation will meet on Monday to determine the winner of the 2024 NCAA Tournaments, but only one can come away with the national title.

Very little has stopped Purdue (34-4), a team playing on a mission after what happened just over a year ago. The Boilermakers were upset by 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson in 2023 but we’re done talking about those Knights. Purdue has been a team on a mission, winning their way to the national title game, with notable victories over Gonzaga and Tennessee before their great team win over NC State in the Final Four.

Recently named AP Player of the Year once again, Zach Edey (25.0 ppg, 12.2 rpg) is certainly the focal point for the Boilermakers, especially after that 40-point effort in the Elite Eight. Despite a poor shooting effort on Saturday, sophomore Braden Smith (12.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 7.5 apg) remains one of the nation’s most prolific point guards. Another big difference this year was the addition of former Southern Illinois guard Lance Jones (11.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg), who scored 14 points against NC State. Other sophomore guard Fletcher Loyer (10.6 ppg) has really developed this season, while both he and Smith make 44% of their 3-pointers.

The Boilermakers are 2nd in KenPom, boasting one of the nation’s top offenses and a defense that’s gotten the job done. They limited NC State to just 50 points on Saturday while ranking as one of the nation’s best 3-point shooting teams. What makes Purdue deadly is the combination of Edey’s impact in the paint and their ability to knock down those outside shots.

There’s no shortage of talent on Connecticut (36-3), as the Huskies sit just one game away from repeating their national title, hoping to be the first team to accomplish that in 17 years. The Huskies blasted their way to the Final Four, including blowouts over San Diego State and Illinois before pulling away late in a great win over Alabama on Saturday night.

All five UConn starters average double figures in scoring. The impact of Tristen Newton (15.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 6.1 apg) has been profound, standing out as a top point guard in the nation. Sophomore big man Donovan Clingan (12.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg) has been a monster all season. One of the big offseason additions was Cam Spencer (14.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg), and the former Rutgers guard has been fantastic for the Huskies. Freshman Stephon Castle (10.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg) has also played outstanding, leading the team with 21 points against Alabama.

Almost nobody has stopped the Huskies this season and it’s unsurprising to see Connecticut sitting atop the KenPom ratings. They top the nation in offensive efficiency and have honestly been a machine. This team has been dominant in this Tournament even when the shots aren’t falling from outside while Clingan has been a force down low that few teams can slow down.

March Madness is where dreams come true but it’s also about heartbreak. These two teams have done nothing but deliver heartbreak all throughout this Tournament. There have been very few moments when the opposition has been on the same level as either UConn or Purdue. This is the epitome of the ultimate matchup for the national title.

The biggest story will be that showdown down low between Zach Edey and Donovan Clingan. These two have established themselves as the best big men in the nation. These seven-footers both have looked unstoppable at times and the winner of their matchups will go a long way to deciding this matchup.

Outside of that, both teams shoot the ball well from outside and can command the game in other ways. There honestly hasn’t been much competition to this point for either team, though they were both challenged in different ways down the stretch. How will Purdue handle the Huskies’ fast break offense? Can Connecticut over those long-rage shooters when Edey’s physicality opens them up on the outside?

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This matchup could truly go either way. We’re looking closely at what Clingan will do against Edey, expecting him to pose the first legitimate challenge to the AP Player of the Year. If Clingan can break even in that matchup in the paint, then Connecticut will repeat as national champions, especially with the way their entire lineup has played all year long. UConn looks unstoppable and marches Dan Hurley to another title.

Prediction: Connecticut 75, Purdue 71