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Men’s March Madness: Everything you need to know about the national championship game between UConn and Purdue – CNN

UConn forward Samson Johnson celebrates a basket during the second half of the Final Four game against Alabama.


History beckons for both UConn and Purdue in the national championship game on Monday.

Defending champion UConn is seeking to become the first back-to-back champion since Florida in 2006 and 2007, while Purdue can win its first ever title after more than 40 years of heartbreak.

Throughout the season, they have proven themselves to be the best teams in the country and have navigated all the twists and turns of March Madness to give themselves a chance to confirm that status.

The Huskies and the Boilermakers will face off for the title at 9.20 p.m. E.T. on Monday, April 8 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Their clash will be broadcast on TBS/TNT/truTV.

UConn has been the dominant force in men’s college basketball in the last 25 years, winning a record five titles since 1999. Its tournament prowess has been on show this this year too, outclassing team after team as they bulldozed their way to the final.

Their Final Four 86-72 win over Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday was their 11th straight NCAA tournament game by double-digits, even after much of the game had been closely fought.

“Our identity is to be pretty relentless,” coach Dan Hurley told reporters after the semifinal victory.

“We might not break you for 18 minutes, 25 minutes, but at some point if what we’re doing at both ends and on the backboard is at a high level, it just becomes hard for the other team to sustain it.”

Hurley high fives guard Cam Spencer.

UConn boasts the nation’s best scoring margin as a result of the most efficient offense in the country and a top-five defense.

Its dominance on both sides of the ball was on full display in the Elite Eight against Illinois. With the score tied at 23 in the final minutes of the first quarter, the Huskies went on a relentless 30-0 run to completely shutout Illinois for almost nine minutes en route to a 77-52 victory.

“We don’t crumble,” said center Donovan Clingan. “Basketball is a game of runs. We stay composed, stay together and just keep playing as a team, and they’re not going to make every shot.”

With a chance to repeat as national champion on the line for UConn, anticipation for a heavyweight clash between two No. 1 seeds is at a fever pitch.

“Us and Purdue have clearly been the two best teams in the country the last two years, and I think it’s just great for college basketball to get the two big dogs playing on Monday night,” Hurley said.

The Midwest Region champion, Purdue Boilermakers, are banishing prior demons in their quest for their first national championship title. The Boilermakers last appeared in the NCAA Championship game in 1969 where they were runners-up.

They have had a point to prove this year after crashing out last season in the tournament’s second-ever 16-over-1 upset defeat. That disappointment continued 44 years of continuous heartbreak for Purdue, who have consistently fallen short of expectations, succumbing to bad luck and shock defeats.

“We didn’t run from it. We talked about how we felt about losing, we talked about how we were going to grow from it,” Purdue forward Mason Gillis said after the Final Four game, per the NCAA.

“We didn’t just talk about it, we walked the walk. I don’t want to say we wouldn’t be in this situation if we didn’t lose to them, but it definitely fueled us; sitting in that loss, seeing it on social media 24/7, seeing it on TV.”

The Boilermakers flipped the narrative this year, blowing out Grambling State and Utah State in the opening two rounds before defeating No. 5 Gonzaga 80-68 in the Sweet 16.

Then they narrowly took the win against No. 2 Tennessee in the Elite Eight and downed No. 11 NC State in the Final Four to earn a shot at the first national championship in program history.

Gillis dives after a loose ball in the second half of the Final Four game against North Carolina State.

Much of Purdue’s success has come as a result of the performances of 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, the tallest player in Big Ten conference history and the reigning consensus national player of the year.

Edey, who represented his native Canada at the 2023 FIBA World Cup, was named the Big Ten player of the year for the second season in a row and has led his team in points and rebounds in each round so far.

These displays have earned the 21-year-old senior some high praise.

“He has a nice touch around the basket,” said legendary NBA big man and Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. “He uses his body well. He’s playing very well, and he’s staying out of foul trouble.”

Purdue will be hoping that Edey can replicate these performances if it is to unseat UConn as national champion.