The Mayhem of March – Final Four

April 5, 2024

NCAAM: (11) NC State vs. (1) Purdue

6:00 p.m. ET, TBS

Purdue -9.0 (-110) | O/U 146.5 (-110)


By now, you have probably heard about the Cinderella run the Wolfpack are on. and they Now, NC State will see if they can ride that wave all the way to the championship game. NC State was not even projected to make the tournament until they went on a run and won the ACC Tournament, solidifying their spot in the big dance frenzy. NC State is riding a nine-game win streak and will look to push that to 10 when they take on the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday night. Big man DJ Burns has become the face of the Wolfpack with his slick post moves and unrelenting drive in and around the basket. Burns scored 29 points and grabbed four rebounds en route to the victory against Duke in the Elite Eight. DJ Horne will also be a pivotal player to keep an eye on during this matchup, as he pitched in 20 of his own. The Wolfpack needs both DJs to be on their A-game if they want to have a shot at taking down this Purdue squad.

Speaking of Purdue, they’ve got their own motivation after getting ousted in the first round of last year’s tournament. The redemption trail has been a success so far for the Boilmakers. Big man Zach Edey has been virtually unstoppable during the tournament and helped carry his team to a 72-66 victory against No. 2 seed Tennessee in the last round. Edey posted 40 points in the victory, which proved to be a deciding factor as the rest of the squad shot under 35% from the field for the game. Perhaps that was in part due to Tennessee’s game plan to eliminate the three-point shot, but either way, the rest of the team will need to be better should they want to advance to the final. The Boilermakers play around Edey, who constantly gets to the free-throw line with his 7-foot-4 frame. While recent showings lead us to believe Purdue is the team to beat, let’s not forget that this is the same squad that was bounced in the first round of the tournament last season.

One thing that makes NC State dangerous in this matchup is that they are playing with house money – just to use a betting term. Nobody expected NC State to even make the tournament, let alone play in the Final Four against one of the best teams in the nation. Nearly all of the Wolfpacks’ wins have been impressive against teams like Duke, two-seed Marquette and No. 6 seed Texas Tech. With that said, this will easily be the toughest task for NC State.  

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: Purdue -9.0 (-110) 

Purdue is far better than any of the teams NC State has faced previously. The Boilermakers have won their four tournament games by an average of 21 points and have faced some quality competition along the way in teams like Tennessee and Gonzaga. On paper, Purdue is the far better team. Edey is practically unstoppable and should the rest of the squad do their part, Purdue should be able to win this game and clear the number.  As much as March Madness markets the idea of Cinderella dancing well-past midnight, the clock always seems to strike. Sorry, fans of the ‘pack; history shows that the shoe rarely fits, and it won’t here either.


NCAAM: (4) Alabama vs. (1) UConn

8:49 p.m. ET, TBS

UConn -11.5 (-110) | O/U 160.5 (-110)

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The If there’s any team that’s been better than Purdue during this tournament, it’s the UConn Huskies. UConn is looking to win back-to-back championships for the first time since Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators did so over a decade ago. While the first half of their matchup with Illinois was close, the Huskies destroyed the Illini in the second half, jumping out to a whopping 30-0 run, which eventually ended with a 77-52 victory and a spot in the Final Four. Like Purdue, UConn has cleaned up throughout this tournament, winning by an average of 28 points across their four tournament games. The Huskies are sharp on both ends of the floor, and they will need to bring their A game in the shooting department if they intend to emerge victorious against this high-octane Alabama squad. There are some interesting angles with UConn’s travel that could be of value to some sports bettors. After some travel issues, the Huskies did not arrive in the Phoenix area until 3:15 a.m. on Thursday. UCONN was initially scheduled to get into town Wednesday evening but spent the night sitting on the tarmac instead. Could this impact how they perform, especially with this game expected to be a shootout?

The Crimson Tide are known for their scoring, as they will live and die by their offensive output. Alabama has registered 109 points and 89 points two times in three of their four tournament matchups so far. On the flip side, they’ve allowed opponents to score 96, 87, and 82 points, respectively in those same matchups. They will need to devise a game plan to slow down this Huskies team. While UConn is not considered a high-output team on offense, they do a damn good job of adjusting to their opponent’s style of play, and Alabama is known to allow a ton of open shots during the course of a game.

UConn seems to be in a league of their own right now, and while Alabama can shoot the lights out, it’s hard to envision them getting past UConn when they are locked in. Dan Hurley has evolved into one of the best coaches in college basketball, and he will have his guys ready to go for this matchup.

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: UConn -11.5 (-110) 

The last game that UConn played where they did not win by double digits came back on March 15th against the Rick Pitino-led St. John’s Red Storm. Not only is UConn the more well-rounded team; they are the more refined team. They’ve already climbed the mountain top and know how to play when the pressure is turned up. Alabama may have a dynamic offense, but UConn is just the better team. Expect a strong effort from the Huskies in this one as they look to get back to the championship game.