2024 Final Four in the Book: 1 Reason why each team can and cannot win the National Title

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NC State DJ Burns Final Four
North Carolina State’s Michael O’Connell (12) reacts after a basket by DJ Burns Jr. (30) against Duke during the second half of an Elite Eight college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Dallas, Sunday, March 31, 2024. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Just like that, the original field of 68 has been cut down to the Final Four teams vying for the National Championship. With two No. 1 seeds, a No. 4 seed, and a No. 11 seed all punching their ticket to Phoenix, there are plenty of storylines and value to be found in college basketball’s most exciting weekend of the year.

Let’s take a look at one reason why each team will win the national title and one reason they will not.


NCAA Champion Odds

  1. UConn (-195)
  2. Purdue (+205)
  3. NC State (+1600)
  4. Alabama (+1600)

UConn Huskies

UConn guard Cam Spencer (12) celebrates during the second half of the Elite 8 college basketball game against against the Illinois in the men’s NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Why they will win: They are the best team in college basketball. 

Dan Hurley’s UConn Huskies have cruised their way to the Final Four. Leaving a path of destruction in their wake. There has not been a more dominant team in the tournament this year. Faced with one of the toughest sides of the bracket, UConn has won each game running away, covering the spread in every contest no matter how much they are favored by.

The Huskies have been so dominant that Hurley’s son, Andrew, has appeared in 10 straight NCAA Tournament games. Andrew Hurley is a walk-on yet has gotten minutes in the last ten UConn games because they have been blowing teams out by so much at the end of the game. When statistics like that start to pop up, you know you have been dominant.

Why they won’t win: They don’t know how to win a close game in the tournament.

While we have seen UConn transform their team and adapt in each matchup this year, the one thing they have not been tested by yet is a crunch time game in the tournament. Since they have won each tournament game by double digits in these two years of dominance, they have yet to be tasked with executing down the stretch. You look around at every other team in the final four and they have all had to win games down the stretch and come up with clutch plays. UConn has not had to do that yet and we don’t know how they’ll respond when they do. Hurley has done a great job of preparing his team for the moment, but the actual execution down the stretch has yet to be seen.


Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue center Zach Edey, right, shoots over Michigan State center Carson Cooper (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinal of the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 15, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Why they will win: Zach Edey can take over any game.

As we saw on Sunday afternoon, Zach Edey has figured out college basketball better than any big man in recent memory. Similar to how Michael Penix Jr. was able to carry the Washington Huskies to a College Football Playoff with his years of experience and learning the college game, Edey has done the same thing.

After a career-high 40 points from Edey to punch the Boilermakers’ ticket to the Final Four, Purdue proved they could match a team’s physicality like Tennessee and execute down the stretch. There is seemingly no answer for the ‘throw it to Edey’ play and NC State’s big man DJ Burns Jr. will have his hands full on Saturday.

Why they won’t win: Tempo, pace, and foul trouble.

Purdue has done an excellent job throughout the tournament of keeping teams from running and relying on their half-court defense. On Saturday, Edey did not get his first foul called on him until there were less than ten minutes left in the second half. That meant he was able to stay on the court for the majority of the game and impact both ends of the floor.

If Edey were to get into foul trouble, the Boilermakers do not have the depth behind him to survive. Aside from Edey, Purdue did a great job of controlling the tempo on Saturday against a Tennessee team that loved to get out in transition. When the Vols did go on runs, it was because they were getting out in transition and getting buckets before Purdue could set up their defense.

NC State plays at a fast tempo compared to Purdue and if the Wolfpack can run in transition and dictate the tempo, it could spell trouble for the Boilermakers.


NC State

Why they will win: DJ Burns and the Wolfpack have a 1983-style run and become the next Cinderella story.

Make no mistake, the NC State Wolfpack is a very talented team that belongs in the Final Four. DJ Burns Jr. has captivated the country but the Wolfpack as a whole is a force to be reckoned with.

They have been playing must-win games for nearly a month now after winning five straight games in five days in the ACC Tournament. There is something to be said for momentum and NC State has all of it right now. The battle between Burns Jr. and Edey on Saturday will be a matchup that is dissected throughout this week and could ultimately determine who punches their ticket to the National Championship. 

Why they won’t win: Lack of star power and matchups.

A team like Purdue provides matchup issues for any team, and NC State is no different. Tennessee was a much better defensive team than NC State this season and yet the Boilermakers found a way to get the ball inside to Edey and facilitate from there.

The Wolfpack does not have the personnel to match up with Edey down low and send the necessary help out to other shooters on the perimeter. It is what has made Purdue national title contenders this year so difficult to guard. On the other side of the ball, it will be on Burns’ shoulders to continue being the ball distributor he has been, but there will not be as many options available with Edey as his primary defender.


Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama forward Grant Nelson celebrates after a win over Clemson in an Elite 8 college basketball game in the NCAA tournament Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Why they will win: A hot offensive shooting night could overwhelm any team and carry them to victory.

Nate Oats and the Crimson Tide have had one of the easier paths to the Final Four given their side of the bracket. No team has provided a counter to their playstyle and they have made enough clutch shots and plays to find themselves in the Final Four.

The thing about a team like Alabama that makes them so dangerous is they are never out of a game. With the tempo, they play with and how quickly they look to move the ball and get shots up, they could bury a team quickly if they get into a rhythm. On the other hand, if they get off to slow starts their offensive tempo and approach give them enough opportunity to shoot themselves back into a game. 

Why they won’t win: Offense wins games, defense wins championships.

The timeless saying applies perfectly to the Crimson Tide this year. Offense has done Alabama wonders this season and they have proven they can outscore talented teams. Although their matchup against UConn will be their most intense defensive battle yet.

Their last two games have been played in the 80s and with a Huskies team that can beat you in a variety of ways, it could spell trouble for the Crimson Tide. Alabama will need their best defensive performance of the year against the best offense they have faced all season.

Overall, this is ultimately UConn’s tournament to lose. Hurley’s squad has been a tank, steamrolling the competition in front of him in every aspect of the game up to this point. If the Huskies play their best basketball, they are truly an unstoppable force and will be the first back-to-back champions in over a decade. While the calendar has flipped to April, there could still be madness on the horizon.

Odds courtesy of DraftKings. For more, click here.

For more on the Final Four, visit AMNY.com