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Every Single Damn Thing You Need To Get The Juices Flowing For The Final Four

Alright, here we are. Probably the most anticipated day in the college basketball world? There's something different about Final Four Saturday than any other day, might be the double header combined with the stakes and the fact typically you have the storylines and games to go with it. That's no different today, at least with the storylines. We know about them all. UConn going back-to-back, Purdue trying to replicate Virginia, NC State being the Cinderella story and Alabama's first trip. It's all there and honestly it makes for a pretty decent Final Four - even if the spreads say otherwise. This feels like how the Final Four setup typically is, two teams who have been talked about all year as the best in the country, a 4 seed and an underdog. Anyways, this blog is simple - talk about the two games, make a pick and then look at the clock until tip. 

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Schedule

Bracket

Most important player on each team today: 

1. Zach Edey (Purdue) - No shit. 2x NPOY is an obvious answer. No need to overthink stuff. 

2. DJ Horne (NC State) - The other DJ. We know what DJ Burns can do and no doubt his matchup vs Edey is huge. Gotta stay out of foul trouble. But the key to beating Purdue is attacking guards and Horne is that. If he can get going early, NC State can hang around and do their thing. 

3. Tristen Newton (UConn) - We know about Clingan and he's a monster. But in this game, it's all Newton. He'd be my pick to win MOP if UConn wins this thing right now and this is the sort of game he can control. I'll talk more about it later, but the tempo, he needs to hit shots, we could be on triple-double watch.

4. Grant Nelson (Alabama) - He was brought in from NDSU for this moment. There's a good chance we see Alex Karaban on him and Nelson needs to score. That's how Alabama needs to get Sears going then. This could be the biggest mismatch depending on lineup rotations and fouls, but we could even see Bama go incredible small ball with Nelson at the 5 and trade 3s vs 2s at a higher rate. 

Future Odds

All odds via DraftKings

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Games, storylines, breakdowns

NC State vs Purdue

Right off the bat we gotta talk about it. Burns vs Edey and what might happen in that matchup. It's the one that everyone is looking forward to, I mean, shit, they even got their own fight poster. 

If Painter is smart he should play Mason Gillis at the 4 as much as possible. As my pal Jordan Majewski (jorcubsdan on Twitter) pointed out, Keatts used Burns on Mark Mitchell against Duke. Why does that matter? Mitchell is a non-factor when it comes to shooting, allowing Burns to roam a little more freely and provide help on Filipowski or Young or do whatever he wants. TKR is pretty similar in that length for Purdue. Gillis on the other hand is a damn good shooter and it frees up Edey to go against Burns, who is prone to foul trouble. Again, not exactly rocket science here folks, we're talking basketball, it's somewhat easy to do. The one thing NC State does have here is 3 guys to kinda throw at Edey to give him different looks. Burns, Diarra and Middlebrooks and all 3 are different players. You gotta find a way to frustrate Edey, draw a quick foul - easier said than done - and make someone else on Purdue beat you. 

Speaking of someone else on Purdue, the guard play. Braden Smith has been awesome this year. Lance Jones hit a dagger 3 against Tennessee. Loyer has come up in spots. Me personally? Cut the head off the snake by worrying about Smith the most. He's the second most reliable player for Purdue behind Edey. This is where it gets tricky though because NC State would need to do that by applying a ton of pressure. I know how FDU beat Purdue last year or how teams tend to stick around, but NC State only goes 7 deep. You obviously have to worry about foul trouble, we don't know how this game is going to be officiated. I'm sure we'll all complain though. 

There's also history to worry about here:

I know 3 of them are mid-majors, but again you're talking about a team playing its 10 straight elimination game. That ain't easy, especially when you have a short bench. 

UConn vs Alabama

We know about the plane issues, the lack of sleep and all that, so we'll try to focus on the game here. I disagree with everything Rico said about UConn getting into a track meet with Alabama. UConn can play in a track meet, they have the most efficient offense in the country for a reason. You have elite shooters, you have a guy like Castle who can slice the defense and is NBA talent, you have a big man, you have depth. I mentioned it earlier but I do think this is a Tristen Newton game. First off, UConn is due for positive shooting regression. They've shot like shit (might be saying it kindly) for basically the entire Tournament. Spencer, Newton, Karaban, Diarra are all too good for that to keep on happening. 

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For Alabama it's simple though. You need to draw Clingan out of the post. Whether that's going true small ball with Nelson at the 5 and be willing to trade 3s vs 2s for long stretches or someone like Stevenson hitting shots to keep Clingan out. My advice here is simple. Do the complete opposite of Brad Underwood - who famously said 'if he blocks 100 shots, he blocks 100 shots.' That's why Illinois lost to UConn. For some reason they thought they could keep attacking Clingan and basically didn't score with him on the floor. Alabama can shoot 50 threes, that's not out of the realm of possibility. But, again, it comes down to defense. Hurley runs some of the best offensive schemes we'll see in the country. He has five guys who can be the focal point pending on matchups. They'll put Alabama in a shit ton of PnRs and someone is going to have to defend Newton without helping off of Spencer/Karaban/Diarra. 

Live Show

Make sure you boo Bosco. 

Picks

Ultimately I think one of these games ends up being close, good luck figuring out which one. I know people have been pointing the 2003 Final Four where we had big spreads like this and the Cuse/Texas game was entertaining enough before Kansas just beat the everliving shit out of Marquette. There's for sure a worry about shooting in the NFL stadium that we hear about every year. Can we just play basketball in basketball arenas? I know I'm asking for a lot here, but it's a million times better. 

16-13-1 so far in the NCAA Tournament, +1.7 units

Purdue -9

Purdue -10.5 (+110)

Purdue ML/over 146 +130

UConn -11.5

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I keep going back and forth on these, but ultimately as much as I want to see NC State win, I think Purdue figures it out. It's more the matchups + short bench for NC State than anything else. I also think you see a ton of free throws, wouldn't be surprised to see both games called tight. As for the other game? I want to take UConn until they prove me otherwise. I'll go down with the ship because I'm tired of trying to bet against them at this point. Sure, they could have the cold night and Alabama shoots lights out a la the game at Creighton, but I can't trust Alabama's defense enough. Favorites are rolling so far in the Tournament too. I hate it. I want to take dogs, but favorites have been the moneymaker.