Picks for the final 4, featuring a potential Nuggets draft prospect

Mar 16, 2024; New York City, NY, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Stephon Castle (5) and center Donovan Clingan
Mar 16, 2024; New York City, NY, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Stephon Castle (5) and center Donovan Clingan / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The men’s NCAA Tournament Final Four will take place on Saturday in Phoenix, featuring North Carolina State, Alabama, UConn, and Purdue: two big favorites, two pesky underdogs, and loads of NBA prospects. There’s intrigue all over the place and fans should be treated to a great show.

11 North Carolina State vs. 1 Purdue

The night's first game features tournament darlings, NC State, taking on top-seeded Purdue. The Boilermakers are led by two-time National Player of the Year, big man Zach Edey. Edey has absolutely dominated the college game for multiple seasons and has finally been catching the eye of NBA scouts with his improved strength, footwork, mobility, and ball skills.

Edey would make an intriguing late first-round pick for the Nuggets, who could bolster the center position in minutes when Nikola Jokic sits. He’ll be helping Purdue try to erase the stink of last year’s first-round upset at the hands of 16-seed Farleigh Dickinson by making the National title game.

On the other side, the Cinderella upstarts will be led by a pair of veterans, DJ Horne and DJ Burns. The big man with the smooth moves, Burns received praise from Jokic after his heroics in the Elite 8. Burns has been a joy to watch, but he’ll have his work cut out for him against Edey and Purdue.

I think the Boilermakers come out hot and get out to an early lead, but I’m backing the plucky underdogs to stay the course, walk this lead down, and ultimately triumph as the Boilers get tight late. Wolfpack in a classic.

The pick: NC State 68 - Purdue 67

4 Alabama vs. 1 UConn

In the late game, the dominant Huskies look to keep their impressive run going. They cruised through the tournament last year, and they’re on the verge of doing it again. The team is littered with NBA prospects, including center Donovan Clingan and guard Stephon Castle, two projected lottery picks. But the team is stacked with talent from top to bottom.

The Tide have an explosive offense and will do their best to keep up with the Huskies, but it’s going to take an incredible effort, likely some hot shooting, an off-night for Connecticut, and probably some luck on top of that.

I’d love to go double upsets here but I just can’t pick against the Huskies. The team is simply too good and too well-coached. I think they pour it on in the second half and pull away for another big win.

The pick: UConn 89 - Alabama 73