Sometimes we get magical postseason runs and the NCAA Tournament final features 2 surprise teams that wrecked brackets, broke hearts, and inspired hoopers along the way. Like last year, when a 4-seed met a 5-seed for the national championship.

And sometimes it’s painfully obvious there are 2 teams in America that are better than everyone else, and we get a postseason tournament that, while entertaining, only verifies that fact. We got that this year. UConn (36-3) and Purdue (34-4) were the No. 1 and No. 3 overall seeds in the field, respectively, and they’ll meet on Monday night for a clash that could provide one of the great matchups in recent tournament history.

UConn seeks history. Purdue seeks redemption. We get 2 outstanding coaches, 2 unstoppable big men, and the potential for fireworks.

1 UConn vs. 1 Purdue | Monday, April 8 | 9:20 p.m. | TBS | Glendale, Arizona

UConn held a 30-plus-point lead at some point in each of its first 4 wins before “surviving” its toughest test yet against Alabama in the Final Four. The game was certainly closer than the final score indicated, but UConn still managed to beat the Crimson Tide 86-72 after holding them to 3-of-12 from 3-point range in the second half. Still, UConn has won by an average of 25 points a game in the tourney and covered the spread in each of its last 11 tourney games dating back to last year.

Purdue has won its games by an average of 19.8 points. The Boilermakers held NC State and its offense to just 50 points in the Final Four, limiting breakout start DJ Burns Jr. to 8 points on 10 shots. Purdue’s offense has been steamrolling opponents with a pick-your-poison style of play. Two-time national player of the year Zach Edey is averaging 28 points a game while the offense has assisted on 73% of its made baskets and shot 39% from the 3-point line. Edey and 3s accounted for 50 of Purdue’s 63 points against NC State.

If UConn is to win a second consecutive national title, it’ll become the first defense to finally cause Purdue issues.

And yet the Huskies are an unusually large favorite in the matchup. The 6.5-point spread is the largest point spread this century between a pair of 1-seeds in a title game.

UConn has its own towering center to deal with in Donovan Clingan, who had 18 points and 4 blocked shots in the win over Alabama. But Clingan’s defensive presence is just a little more important to his team than his offense, which makes the matchup with Edey when Purdue has the ball must-see TV on its own.

“He’s a unique player. I don’t think that one thing is going to work in the game,” said UConn coach Dan Hurley. “I think you’ve got to try to keep him off balance.”

Playing Edey straight up would leave Clingan — the team’s most valuable player — susceptible to foul trouble. While Clingan (13.1 points) isn’t the 20-plus-per-game scorer that Edey is, UConn structures a lot of what it does around the gravity Clingan requires on offense. Losing him for long stretches would force the Huskies — who use a drop to funnel opponents into Clingan blocks or bad 2s — to alter the way they play. In other words, advantage Purdue.

But Hurley also knows a defense can no longer send 2 to the ball and try to surround Edey. Purdue has too many capable 3-point shooters and Edey is too good a passer.

“We’re the hunters all tournament,” Edey said. “We haven’t sat back and let teams attack us. We’ve been the aggressors most of the games.”

In the tournament, UConn’s defense has been the driving force behind its utter dominance. The offense is outstanding in its own right, but the Huskies’ ability to just stifle teams at the other end has led to this moment. Purdue will need its others to step up and have big-time performances. That puts the spotlight on Braden Smith to make some tough non-paint shots, on Fletcher Loyer and Lance Jones to make their looks when the ball swings their way, and on Mason Gillis to come off the bench and provide a scoring punch.

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Before getting to the props, here are some advanced metrics from KenPom to consider:

Opponent-adjusted offensive efficiency

  • UConn: 127.2 (1st)
  • Purdue: 125.7 (3rd)

Opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency

  • UConn: 91.6 (4th)
  • Purdue: 94.4 (12th)

Opponent-adjusted tempo

  • UConn: 64.7 possessions (328th)
  • Purdue: 67.1 possessions (211th)

With that, here are 3 player props for the game:

Purdue C Zach Edey over 26.5 points + assists (-105 via DraftKings)

Edey is an underappreciated passer. In the semifinal win over NC State, he had 4 assists, giving him 11 total during the NCAA Tournament. If a team sends bodies at him to try and limit his scoring, Edey has the vision and the wherewithal to kick the ball to where it needs to go. Another 3- or 4-assist game from him in the title game is certainly within the realm of possibility, and a 23- or 24-point scoring performance is what it’ll take for Purdue to claim a national title.

Purdue F Mason Gillis over 1.5 made 3s (+130 via DraftKings)

This feels like a poor matchup for Edey’s starting frontcourt partner, Trey Kaufman-Renn, and the kind of game where Purdue is going to need Gillis to knock down some shots. The Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year hit 2 triples in the win over NC State, and he has hit at least 2 in 10 of his last 12 games.

UConn G Cam Spencer over 14.5 points (+100 via BetMGM)

The Huskies’ leading 3-point shooter is going to need to be a marksman from deep. Expect both of these teams to craft their defensive gameplans around slowing down the big man in the middle, and expect both to look to get the other guy into foul trouble by attacking the interior. That should lead to open 3-point opportunities. Spencer had 14 in the win over Alabama, he had 18 in the win over San Diego State, and he had 15 in the first-round win over Stetson. In total this season, he has cleared 15 points 20 times.

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