Purdue defeats NC State in March Madness Final Four, advances to NCAA Championship



CNN

Sixty-eight teams started March MadnessNow it's time to find out who will advance to the championship game.

Purdue advanced to the NCAA Men's Championship after defeating NC State 63-50 on Saturday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

It was the first time the Boilermakers reached the title game since 1969.

Purdue will face defending champion and No. 1 seed UConn or No. 4 Alabama.

Those two teams face off at 8:49pm ET and will be available to watch on TBS, TNT and tru TV.

In Saturday's first game, the high-flying No. 1 seed faced a scrappy underdog heading into the last four.

The Purdue Boilermakers bounced back from last year's disappointment — their second 16-over-1 loss of the tournament — in emphatic fashion.

Overwhelming wins in the opening two rounds set the tone before dramatic wins over No. 5 Gonzaga and No. 2 Tennessee that sealed the team's first semifinal berth since 1980.

It's continued heartbreak for Purdue, which has suffered 44 years of bad luck and shock defeats.

Head coach Matt Painter said he had to learn from past experiences to get to this point.

“I thought we should be more efficient,” he said. “By doing that, not everyone can play or play as much, and that's difficult because they've done a lot of things in our program and they've done a lot of good things.”

This time around, the Purdue men's tournament has a single dominant player in the form of Zach Eddy.

The 7-foot-4-inch Canadian center is nearly unstoppable for opposing defenses while providing a solid last line.

Coming off an impressive season last time out, the 21-year-old really flourished in this year's March Madness, scoring 30, 23 and 27 points in the tournament's opening three games.

His best performance came when his team needed it most, scoring 40 points and grabbing 16 rebounds to help lead Purdue to an Elite Eight victory over Tennessee.

Meanwhile, DJ Burns Jr. led NC State's extraordinary run, capturing the hearts and minds of many neutrals with his quick footwork, deft touch and personality.

Like Eady, Burns' most impressive performance came in the Elite Eight, scoring 29 points against Wolfpack No. 4 upset Duke and booked their first Final Four appearance since 1983 — the same year they won their second and last national championship.

Burns embodies the never-say-die attitude that NC State has consistently displayed in this year's tournament, beating No. 6 and No. 2 seeds and Duke in the same way.

Carmen Mantado/Getty Images

Burns (left) was the breakout star of this year's Men's March Madness.

“It's been a miracle run, but we're not surprised,” head coach Kevin Keats said said Before the team's defeat. “We didn't come into this tournament saying hey, let's try to be here. We came (to regionals) to win it and we did. Now we have to move on to our next phase.”

Main storyline of this year's Men's NCAA Tournament: Can anyone stop UConn?

No. The 1-seeded Huskies, who have won all of their games by large margins, look nearly unstoppable — including a 17-point victory over No. 9 Northwestern in the second round.

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They've trailed by 28 this year and have won 10 consecutive tournament games by double digits dating back to last season.

UConn booked its spot in the Final Four.

Head coach Don Hurley puts the success down to having a team that “plays every possession like it's the end of the world.”

“We've had winners. We've had 'us' guys. We've talked about legacy,” Hurley said told reporters.

“They're leaving a legacy in a place where it's hard to leave a legacy. It's a historic season in a place where it's hard to make history. They're excited about it. It's special.”

Michael Reeves/Getty Images

Tristan Newton (right) has been a key player for the UConn Huskies.

Now, UConn is within two wins of becoming only the eighth program to win back-to-back titles, and the second in more than three decades.

It's UConn's sixth national title, passing Duke and Indiana and tying North Carolina for third on the all-time list.

The Alabama Crimson Tide, making its first appearance in the Final Four stage, stands in UConn's way.

Alabama has never won a college basketball national championship — the school is famous for its football team — and is treading new ground.

The team's dynamic offense led Alabama to the semifinals, averaging 90.6 points per game.

Senior Mark Sears leads the team in scoring averaging 24 points per game. The guard now has 25 games this season where he has scored more than 20, breaking a 45-year-old Alabama record.

But during the regular season, the team struggled on defense, hindering its success. Scored 81 points or more in a game seven times this season and still lost.

So head coach Nate Oates called on someone who knows something about the college game, former Alabama football head coach Nick Saban. Saban retired earlier this year after winning a total of seven national championships as head coach at Alabama and LSU.

“I called Coach Saban. What should we do?” Oats said. “He gave me the 'next' idea — the next, the next, the next. So the guys bought in. We can run this. Other teams have done it. We have the ability to do it.

“We've got to play great defense again — or start playing great defense; I don't know if 'back' is the right word. But we can have the No. 1 offense in the country; we've had it for most of the year. We can put together a top-20 defense and make the Final Four.” .I think we did it.

Alabama aims to become the first team since UConn in 1999 to win a title in its first trip to the Final Four.

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