Though it took some panic-powered last-minute travel arrangements for some, all of the teams have arrived in Phoenix for the conclusion of the 2024 NCAA Tournament in the Final Four. Yes, No. 1 overall seed and reigning champ UConn had a later start to the week due to inclement weather, but now that the Huskies have arrived and acclimated to the scene we can officially turn our attention to Saturday night's national semifinals. 

It's a Final Four that checks a lot of boxes in terms of what most college basketball fans would like to see on the game's biggest stage. You have two teams -- UConn and Purdue -- that have been in the discussion as the best team in the country for most of the year. Not every winner of the NCAA Tournament can say they were the best team all year long, but if the Huskies or Boilermakers do end up cutting down the nets on Monday night, it will be a fitting champion to represent the entire season of college basketball. 

But they don't call it March Madness because everything turns out as expected. The arrival of two fiery competitors for the top seeds allows for some real drama and intrigue heading into Saturday night. On one hand, there is an Alabama team that is in the Final Four for the first time in program history, having just made the Elite Eight for only the second time ever. The Crimson Tide will go toe-to-toe with that dominant UConn squad, hoping that the highest-scoring offense in the country can help the underdogs keep pace with college basketball's top dog and reigning champion. 

Then there is NC State, which comes howling in Phoenix having won five games in five days in the ACC Tournament to even make the Big Dance. The Wolfpack followed that up with an upset of Texas Tech, an overtime thriller against Oakland and back-to-back resounding victories against Marquette and Duke to win the South Regional. On the morning of March 12, NC State was nowhere near the tournament conversation and by the end of March 31 the Wolfpack were headed to the Final Four for the first time since winning it all with Jim Valvano in 1983. NC State's transformational 19 days have made this team, led by NCAA Tournament superstar DJ Burns, the Cinderella of this year's NCAA Tournament. 

With the table set and the teams in place, let's get into some storylines for Saturday's Final Four action. 

Heavyweight showdown leads off the night 

When No. 1 Purdue plays No. 11 NC State in the early game (6:09 p.m. ET, TBS), the meeting of Zach Edey and DJ Burns marks a historical showdown of big men. According to CBS Sports Research, Burns vs. Edey is the first Final Four game on record (since 2000) between two players weighing 275 pounds or more. Edey has a definite size advantage at 7-4, 300 pounds, but Burns has shown the ability to bang with all kinds of big men throughout this postseason run. He's listed at 6-9 and 275 pounds, but seems to play both taller and stronger than those measurements. 

But it's important to note both teams will need a complete team effort to keep these two big men from taking over the game. NC State has some real depth in the frontcourt and will use not just Burns but versatile 6-foot-10 forwards Mohamed Diarra and Ben Middlebrooks to try and limit Edey's impact as much as possible. And for Purdue, there is the constant gamble of when to double-team Burns and when to let Edey man up because the Wolfpack star big man has been making teams pay with 14 assists across the last three NCAA Tournament wins. 

Double digits aren't doing justice to UConn's dominance

No team in the 2024 NCAA Tournament has felt more inevitable than UConn. The Huskies extended the NCAA Tournament record for consecutive double-digit wins to 10 after a 25-point runaway win against Big Ten Tournament Champion Illinois. Even though this is a different group than last year's team, the level of dominance remains the same with an average margin of victory of 27.8 points per game. There simply aren't a lot of obvious ways for an opponent to find an advantage. After dealing with travel delays earlier in the week, we'll see if UConn can maintain the same dominant form when they take the floor in the second game of the evening against Alabama (8:49 p.m. ET, TBS). 

A Final Four debutante 

There is a lot of Final Four history between the participants this weekend. Purdue (1980) and NC State (1983) snapped lengthy Final Four droughts. UConn is making its seventh appearance in the last 25 years and going for its sixth national championship. The one Final Four rookie is Alabama, but given how things are trending under Nate Oats, you could argue this is more likely the beginning of more tournament success than a one-off. 

This is a program that had only been to the Elite Eight once prior to 2024. Prior to Nate Oats, the only Alabama coach with multiple Sweet 16 appearances was Wimp Sanderson. Alabama's Final Four debut acknowledges a breakthrough for the Oats-led program that has been knocking at the door of the game's biggest stage. The Tide have made the NCAA Tournament in four of the five years with Oats at the helm, now reaching the Sweet 16 three times. Last year the Tide were not just named a No. 1 seed for the first time in program history but the No. 1 overall seed, making last year's Sweet 16 exit a disappointment. 

This year's group was not as heralded in the regular season, though their potential was always there thanks to one of the best offensive ratings in the country. The style has largely remained the same -- play fast, shoot threes -- but the rotation and roles have changed. Defensive issues may have led to double-digit losses prior to the tournament and a No. 4 seed, but this group has found enough defense in the right spots to propel them to victory. So maybe Alabama's Final Four appearance is not as much of a comet as it is an arrival. 

Check out the full TV and streaming schedule for Saturday's Final Four games below.

Time (ET)GameTV / Stream
6:09 p.m.(1) Purdue vs. (11) NC State
TBS, TNT (watch live)
~8:49 p.m.(1) UConn vs. (4) Alabama
TBS, TNT (watch live)

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