March Madness Odds: UConn, Purdue, Alabama and NC State paths to the Final Four

Jordan Ramsay | Updated Apr 05, 2024

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

We're down to the Final Four of the 2024 NCAA Tournament and this year's Big Dance has delivered as promised. We have a defending champion still left in the field and Cinderella 11-seed looking to make history.

Let’s take a look at the respective paths UConn, Purdue, Alabama and NC State took to reach the this year’s Final Four.

Make sure to check out our complete list of college basketball game odds and college basketball futures.

Final Four game previews

NC State (11) vs. Purdue (1) Final Four Bracket Prediction: March Madness Odds

Alabama (4) vs. UConn (1) Final Four Bracket Prediction: March Madness Odds

NC State Wolfpack

NO. 11 SEED SOUTH REGION

Round 1: No. 6 Texas Tech, 80-67

Round 2: No. 14 Oakland, 79-73

Sweet 16: No. 2 Marquette, 67-58

Elite Eight: No. 4 Duke, 76-64

Final Four: Vs. No. 1 Purdue, Saturday at 6:09 p.m. ET

Even discounting the fact that NC State is an 11-seed, their run to the Final Four is amazing considering they were just 17-14 heading into the ACC Tournament. The Wolfpack has more than held their own against three higher seeds in the NCAA Tournament, including No. 2 Marquette in the Sweet 16 and No. 4 Duke in the Elite Eight.

NC State has eight transfers on the team, which might explain why it took a while for them to gel, but they’ve handled everything thrown at them over the last couple of months. They’re comfortable playing any style from a high tempo pace to a deliberate and controlled game. The Wolfpack also defend well against the three, with Marquette and Duke combing to shoot 18 per cent (9-of-51) from beyond the arc.

Biggest strengths: NC State uses their size to their advantage. They don’t just defend well from three, but they use players like Mohamed Diarra (6-foot-10), Ben Middlebrooks (6-10) and D.J. Burns Jr. to protect the rim and win the rebounding battle.

Biggest weaknesses: Outside of Diarra, Middlebrooks and Burns, NC State doesn’t have a deep roster. Defending Zach Edey is going to result in fouls and that could be a big problem for the Wolfpack.

Purdue Boilermakers

NO. 1 SEED MIDWEST REGION

Round 1: No. 16 Grambling State, 78-50

Round 2: No. 8 Utah State, 106-67

Sweet 16: No. 5 Gonzaga, 80-68

Elite Eight: No. 2 Tennessee, 72-66

Final Four: Vs. No. 11 NC State, Saturday at 6:09 p.m. ET

Purdue put last year’s shocking first round exit behind them from the start of this tournament and they haven’t looked back. It’s been the Edey show for the Boilermakers, with the Toronto native averaging 30 points per game and 16.3 rebounds throughout the tournament, including a career-high 40 points against Tennessee in the Elite Eight.

Edey played 39 minutes against Tennessee as he became the first player in 34 years to score at least 40 points and 15 rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game. He’s clearly made mobility and stamina one of his strengths as he’s played 35 minutes or more six times since Feb. 22.

Biggest strengths: Purdue is a top-10 offensive team in the nation, averaging 83.5 ppg while shooting 49.1 per cent from the field and 40.6 per cent from three. The Boilermakers can completely flip the script of any game in minutes.

Biggest weaknesses: Purdue might rely too heavily on Edey. Giving more responsibility to a player like Fletcher Loyer, who is shooting 46 per cent from three, could make a big difference.

Alabama Crimson Tide

NO. 4 SEED WEST REGION

Round 1: No. 13 Charleston, 109-96

Round 2: No. 12 Grand Canyon, 72-61

Sweet 16: No. 1 UNC, 89-87

Elite Eight: No. 6 Clemson, 89-82

Final Four: Vs. No. 1 UConn, Saturday at 8:49 p.m. ET

Alabama wasn’t satisfied with last year’s run to the Sweet 16, so they upped the ante in 2024 by reaching the Final Four for the first time in program history. They’ve already knocked out a No. 1 seed in UNC and they proved they can’t be ruled out of any game after Clemson jumped out to a 13-point lead in the Elite Eight.

Clearly, the Crimson Tide live and die by their offence. They scored 109 points in the first round against Charleston and they put up 89 points each in the Sweet 16 against UNC and the Elite Eight against Clemson. Alabama has improved defensively, but it’s the offence that has made the difference in the tournament.

Biggest strengths: Alabama is shooting the ball no matter what. The game plan is avoid midrange shots and rely solely on layups, threes and free throws. The name of the game is efficient shooting.

Biggest weaknesses: Ironically, The Tides’ biggest weakness is the shooting strategy that has worked for them, so far. Everyone’s heard the adage: live by the three or die by the three. That’s Alabama in a nutshell. They can get into trouble quick when shots don’t drop.

UConn Huskies

NO. 1 SEED EAST REGION

Round 1: No. 16 Stetson, 91-52

Round 2: No. 9 Northwestern, 75-58

Sweet 16: No. 5 San Diego State, 82-52

Elite Eight: No. 3 Illinois, 77-52

Final Four: Vs. No. 4 Alabama, Saturday at 8:49 p.m. ET

UConn came into the Big Dance with the hype train in full effect and boy did they deliver. The Huskies are the first program in NCAA Tournament history to win 10 straight games by double digits, they’re the third team to win the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight by 25-plus points each and they went on a ridiculous 30-0 run in that Elite Eight victory.

Tristen Newton and Stephon Castle have been big factors for UConn, but it’s the emergence of Donovan Clingan that has really been noticeable in the tournament, particularly in the Elite Eight against Illinois. The 7-foot-2 Clingan held the Fighting Illini away from the rim, blocking five shots and forcing Illinois to finish 0-for-19 from the field on shots contested.

Biggest strengths: UConn’s biggest strength has been their adaptability, which allows them to play whatever style and tempo suits them best against any opponent they face. The Huskies handed San Diego State’s top-10 defence their worst beating in four years and UConn’s defence held Illinois to its worst offensive output since 2015.

Biggest weaknesses: It’s tough to find anything wrong with this team given they have just one loss at full strength this year. If you want to nitpick, Clingan’s potential to run into foul trouble against Alabama is something that could derail the game plan.

SportsInteraction