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UConn-Purdue national championship game: History, 1-seeds and big men


GLENDALE, Ariz. — The No. 1-seeded UConn Huskies are on the precipice of completing a rare feat, becoming the first repeat champions in college basketball since Florida in 2007.

The No. 1-seeded Purdue Boilermakers are one win from duplicating the unprecedented turnaround arc executed by Virginia in 2019 — rebounding from losing to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament by winning the entire tournament the next year.

Regardless of which improbable quest comes to fruition Monday night, the meeting of UConn and Purdue in the men’s championship of the NCAA tournament will mark a high-wattage collision for two teams that dominated the sport for much of the past two seasons.

The star power of centers Zach Edey of Purdue and Donovan Clingan of UConn, combined with potential historic stakes, will make the matchup one of the most highly anticipated national title games in recent years. And the storylines of each participant are rarely so clear.

“After last year, we expected to be here,” said star UConn guard Tristen Newton. “We wouldn’t settle for anything less than a national championship. We’ve still got one more to go, and we’re excited for Monday.”

The game will mark the 10th time since 1979 that two No. 1 seeds meet in the NCAA national championship, per ESPN Stats & Information. UConn would be the first No. 1 overall seed to win the tournament since Louisville in 2013.



J-Will: Purdue-UConn may come down to supporting casts

Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg say the NCAA men’s final will depend on players other than Purdue’s Zach Edey and UConn’s Donovan Clingan.

A UConn win Monday would mark the school’s sixth national title, all since 1999. Purdue has never won the national championship and is appearing in its first title game since 1969.

Purdue coach Matt Painter called reprising the Virginia role from 2019 “the right narrative” for his team, and he recounted UVA’s Tony Bennett reaching out after Purdue lost to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson last year. It was soon after No. 13 seed Furman upset No. 5 seed UVA last year.

“For him to think of us and to think of me and to reach out to me on that day, that was great,” Painter said. “So from just a humanity standpoint, there are some good people out there that are thinking about others.”

The marquee matchup Monday night is obvious — a throwback post battle of two big men destined to be NBA lottery picks: Purdue’s 7-foot-4 Edey and Connecticut’s 7-2 Clingan. Edey, a senior, is the two-time National Player of the Year and Clingan, a sophomore, is considered the top college basketball prospect in the upcoming draft.

Clingan acknowledged that Edey has dominated the sport the past few years and said he’s looking forward to that caliber matchup on the biggest night in the sport.

“I’m excited to play against one of the best players in college basketball on the biggest stage, and competing for everything” Clingan said late Saturday.

Clingan and Edey are likely to be grouped with 7-foot post stars like Georgetown‘s Patrick Ewing, who averaged 16.4 points per game and led Georgetown to the national title in 1984. Ewing’s matchup with Houston‘s Hakeem Olajuwon in that 1984 title game was the only other clash of 7-footers in championship history.

Clingan scored 18 on Saturday to power UConn past No. 4 seed Alabama 86-72, as his game included five rebounds and four blocks. Edey scored 14 points in the game’s first 15 minutes and finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds in a 63-50 win over No. 11 seed NC State.

For Edey, the matchup continued his historic NCAA tournament performance, as he has put together six straight NCAA tournament games with 20 points and 10 rebounds. That’s the longest streak in the tournament since Houston’s Elvin Hayes in 1967 and 1968, per ESPN Stats & Information.

“The reason I came back [to college] is playing games like this,” Edey said. “… To finally get this game is big-time.”

The big-man matchup comes at a moment in the sport when positionless basketball and fidelity to high-volume 3-point shooting has gone from the trend to the norm. The true-low post center in college basketball, in some ways, has become a fullback in college football — still around, but generally uncommon.

Connecticut coach Dan Hurley would become just the third active college basketball coach to have two men’s national titles, joining Kansas’ Bill Self and St. John’s Rick Pitino. Since 1965, only UCLA‘s John Wooden, Duke‘s Mike Krzyzewski and Florida‘s Billy Donovan have won back-to-back national titles.

Painter is in his first Final Four after 20 seasons as the head coach at Purdue. He’s proud of his team being in position to win the program’s first title Monday night.

“You can talk all you want, but if you’re not going to play on Monday, you don’t have a chance,” he said. “Obviously we put ourselves in a position to win one.”


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