UConn pursues back-to-back national championships as Purdue hopes to claim 1st title


At the end of Monday night, either the UConn Huskies or the Purdue Boilermakers will have had their one shining moment and will have left Phoenix as men’s basketball national champions.

The madness is nearly over, and UConn is in as good of a position as ever to win back-to-back national championships and become the first team to do so since the Florida Gators accomplished the feat back in 2006 and 2007 behind Joakim Noah and Al Horford.

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UConn head coach Dan Hurley celebrates with center Donovan Clingan, left, after defeating Illinois following an Elite 8 college basketball game in the men’s NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 30, 2024 in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

UConn will send out a lineup that has done this before. Tristen Newton, Donovan Clingan and Alex Karaban were on last year’s national championship team. They helped blow the doors off of San Diego State in the national final and win the program’s first title since 2014.

The Huskies beat Alabama 86-72 in the Final Four to get back to the championship game.

“Once you get to this time of year, everything is just you are who your identity is,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “The way you play, it’s very automatic. It just comes down to hoping that it’s your night.”

Donovan Clingan celebrates

UConn center Donovan Clingan, #32, celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer against Illinois during the second half of the Elite 8 college basketball game in the men’s NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

UConn will meet a team on a mission to fully reverse the embarrassment of the last two years. Purdue was eliminated by No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the round of 64 – becoming only the second team ever to be eliminated by that seed. In 2022, the Boilermakers were stunned by No. 15 St. Peter’s. It has been far from easy for Purdue.

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The Boilermakers return to the national championship game for the first time since 1969 with someone no team has had since Duke’s Jay Williams – a two-time National Player of the Year.

Zach Edey has played at Purdue his entire career – through the good and the bad. He is averaging 24.9 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. He will meet Clingan in the middle of one of the must-see matchups in the tournament.

Zach Edey practices

Purdue center Zach Edey practices ahead of a Final Four college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, April 5, 2024, in Glendale, Arizona. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Additionally, Purdue is in the title game for the first time since 1969.

“Everybody wants to talk about winning it,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “I said, man, you got to get yourself in position before you can win one. It’s like winning a national championship. You can talk all you want, but if you’re not going to play on Monday, you don’t have a chance.

“Obviously, we put ourselves in a position to win one. Got to give our guys credit. They’ve been able to battle back. They’ve also been able to handle a lot of adversity.”

Matt Painter talks to reporters

Purdue head coach Matt Painter, right, speaks to the media during a news conference ahead of a NCAA college Final Four championship basketball game on Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Glendale, Arizona. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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UConn and Purdue will tip off at 9:20 p.m. ET.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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