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The Bellarion

The Bellarion

The Bellarion

Top 4 of 2024: March Madness Climax   

Photo Credit: NCAA

Another year of March Madness has reached its Final Four, and this year’s pool features two frontrunners, and two Cinderella runs. First, let’s go over the tournament’s highlights. 

In the first round, 14-seed Oakland took down 3-seed Kentucky, signaling another disappointing tournament for the Wildcats. Oakland went on to lose to 11-seed NC State in the second round. The other big first round upset was 13-seed Yale edging out a close victory against 4-seed Auburn, whom many had going to the end of their tournament. The only bracket-shifting upset in the second round was 6-seed Clemson taking down 3-seed Baylor, but 11-seed NC State’s victory marked the continuation of their Cinderella run, beginning in the ACC Tournament. 

For the Sweet Sixteen, 6-seed Clemson and 4-seed Alabama upset 2-seed Arizona and 1-seed North Carolina respectively, setting up an unprecedented Elite Eight matchup. 11-seed NC State continued their tear against 2-seed Marquette, and 4-seed Duke took out 1-seed Houston, who was the most picked champion across brackets this year. 

The Elite Eight round was much more predictable, with 1-seeds UConn and Purdue punching their ticket to the Final Four. However, 4-seed Alabama punched their first ever Final Four birth and NC State continued their run by defeating Duke. This marks NC State’s first appearance since 1983, when they famously went on a similar run to win it all. 

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So, how do the final four teams stack up? Here’s my ranking: 

  1. UConn 

The reigning champions have beat every opponent in the last two tournaments by double digits, and it would be silly to not assign them the best odds of winning it all again.  

  1. Purdue  

After a shocking first round exit last year, Purdue has proved themselves in both close games and blowouts. Although Zach Edey is a force to be reckoned with, he is also their weakness. Any game that Edey doesn’t show up, Purdue will lose.  

  1. NC State  

The Cinderella run has been absolutely magical to watch, and I think they can easily ride this wave past Purdue and onto the National Championship. DJ Burns’s energy is electric and seems to propel the entire team to each victory. Their weakness, however, is sheer overpowering ability. They are consistently in closer games, and going up against a scorer like Edey will prove challenging. 

  1. Alabama 

Alabama is the odd-one out of the Final Four. Although they’ve impressed me (and analysts), they just don’t stack up against UConn’s offense. Their toughest challenge came against North Carolina, and they survived. It’s been a good run for them, but it more than likely will end at UConn. 

Who do you have winning it all? How does this year’s Final Four compare to last year’s history making lineup? And, most importantly, will UConn repeat as champs?