Must-see TV: NCAA Final Four all about recent and not-so-recent history

Apr. 3—The University of Connecticut is heading to its seventh Final Four and its second in as many seasons. Not only that, but the Huskies hoisted the championship trophy at the end of last year.

The recent success, thanks in large part to head coach Dan Hurley, has been there.

But no other team in the Final Four can say the same thing.

Purdue is in its third national semifinal and first since 1980. North Carolina State is in its fourth, and first since the 1982-83 season that saw the Wolf Pack win the national title as a six-seed under head coach Jim Valvano. Alabama is in its first semifinal game in men's basketball program history.

It isn't a shock to see Purdue at this stage necessarily because the nation's best player from a year ago, Zach Edey, is leading the squad. But it is a new thing to see this program making a run like this.

Coming from assistant coach Paul Lusk, this is a stage that the Boilermakers and the staff have been trying to reach for Hall of Fame coach Gene Keady, who was a longtime leader of the men's basketball program but never got to this spot.

Alabama couldn't have been a popular pick to reach the Final Four. The Crimson Tide finished the year 21-10 and lost in the SEC quarterfinals to Florida. In fact, they lost to Florida twice in 10 days and allowed over 100 points to the opposition in both.

Obviously NC State wasn't a highly predicted Final Four team as an 11-seed.

The Wolf Pack lost its last four games of the regular season. At the time, their record was 17-14 and would not have even gotten a sniff of an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.

But, NC State flipped it around when it absolutely had to and has now won nine games in a row to get here. It took five straight wins to eventually become ACC tournament champion with a win over North Carolina. Now, four more wins and they're looking at another giant in No. 1 seed Purdue.

This is the beauty of March Madness. There's no way NC State was ever one of the top four teams in the country. It wouldn't have even been close and they never even spent a single week ranked inside the top 25.

Alabama, on the other hand, was a top team at times in the 2023-24 season. It started the year ranked 24th and only lost to Purdue by six points in December. The Crimson Tide climbed the rankings as high as No. 13 during the month of February.

I think there are clear underdogs heading into the semifinals, but I don't think anyone is completely out of it. If you've made it this far and your team is still healthy, you've got a real shot to win a championship.

So, let's talk about what each team must do to ensure it is the one to hoist that trophy.

UConn HuskiesThe first thing is continue to defend. UConn has to stay strong defensively. If that defense starts to falter, things can get scary.

No team has scored 60 points on the Huskies so far in the tournament and three of the four opponents have scored exactly 52. Those are the best numbers in the tournament for a single team defense.

It has led to a margin of victory that is just under +28. Can Alabama break the 60-point barrier?

Purdue Boilermakers

Opponents are struggling to score on Purdue as well in the NCAA tournament at 62.75 ppg right now — about 9 points higher than UConn's opponents.

But, more importantly, the Boilermakers have to continue to work the offense through Edey as often as possible. The 7-foot-4 center has tallied 40, 30, 27 and 23 points in these four games.

That's an average of 30 ppg to go along with about 16 rebounds per game.

You have to make sure that Edey gets that type of production in the biggest game of the season to this point. Someone like Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith or Lance Jones also needs to produce double-scoring to help out.


It's literally just about continuing this run. Nine games in a row is a good streak in the middle of the season, let alone in a conference tournament and now national tournament.

The Wolf Pack won a lower scoring battle with Marquette (67-58) and a higher scoring battle with Oakland (79-73 in overtime). They have shown they can do it both, they just have to continue to bring the high energy levels against a good Purdue team.


Everything will rest on the Alabama offense in order to beat UConn. The Crimson Tide has registered 109, 89 twice and 72.

Offensive efficiency will be the key, not necessarily the points. It's going to require efficient shooting along with good possessions. They must limit turnovers against an elite defensive team like the Huskies.

Taking care of the ball, taking good shots and valuing every possession will be the top priority.