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UConn is one win away from making history after victory over Alabama, will face Purdue in championship

By Jacob Lev and Homero De la Fuente, CNN

(CNN) — Sixty-eight teams began March Madness, and now we know who is going to the NCAA men’s championship game on Monday.

Defending champion UConn stepped closer to making history with an 86-72 Final Four win over Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday. The No. 1 seed is now one victory away from becoming the eighth program to win back-to-back titles as the Huskies are set to face Purdue in the championship game on Monday night.

No. 1 seed Purdue defeated NC State 63-50 earlier Saturday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. It marks the first time the Boilermakers have reached the title game since 1969.

Monday’s game will mark the tenth time since 1979 that two No. 1 seeds will meet in the national championship game.

Purdue and UConn will face off at 8:49 p.m. E.T. Monday and are available to watch on TBS, TNT and tru TV.

Defending champion UConn ousts Alabama

Defending champion and No. 1 seed, the UConn Huskies, edged past No. 4 seed Alabama in the Final Four on Saturday at State Farm Stadium.

It started out as a back-and-forth game for most of the first half and a large part of the second before UConn pulled away late in the game, winning their 11th straight NCAA tournament game by double-digits.

The Huskies were led by defending champ Stephon Castle, who finished with 21 points. Star center Donovan Clingan added 18 points in a game where all five starters scored in double-figures.

“A battle of the giants and I think it’s just great for college basketball,” Huskies men’s basketball head coach Dan Hurley told the TBS broadcast, referring to the matchup between Clingan and Purdue center Zach Edey.

It will all come to a head when the Huskies next face-off against the Purdue Boilermakers on Monday, as they look to capture a sixth national title as well as become the eighth program and second in more than three decades to earn back-to-back NCAA national championships.

“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.

No. 1 Purdue stops No. 11 NC State from continuing ‘miracle run’

The first game of the day on Saturday saw the high-flying No. 1 seed face the plucky underdog riding a wave to the Final Four.

The Purdue Boilermakers have bounced back from last year’s disappointment – being the victim of the tournament’s second-ever 16-over-1 upset defeat – in emphatic fashion.

On Saturday, the Boilermakers led the whole way through behind star Zach Edey’s 20 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

The Wolfpack, who made the Final Four for the first time since 1986, were led by guard DJ Horne, who finished with 20 points.

The team’s resounding victories in the opening two rounds set the tone before impressive wins over No. 5 Gonzaga and No. 2 Tennessee booked the team’s spot in the semifinals, the program’s first since 1980.

It’s been 44 years of continuous heartbreak for Purdue, who have consistently succumbed to bad luck and shock defeats to fall short of expectations.

Head coach Matt Painter says he has had to learn from past experiences to reach this point.

“I thought we had to be more skilled,” he said. “By doing that, not everybody gets to play as much or even play at all, and that’s difficult because they’ve meant a lot to our program, and they’ve done a lot of really good things.”

This time round, Purdue has arguably the single-most dominant player in the men’s tournament in the form of Edey.

The 7-foot-4-inches Canadian center has been almost unstoppable for opposing defenses, while also providing a stout last line of defense.

When asked about his thoughts on potentially winning the program’s first-ever championship, Edey said it’s the one the team’s been talking about for four years.

“Accept that challenge and whoever comes up in the next game will be a great team,” Edey told the TBS broadcast. “We are going to lock in our game plan and execute.”

Coming off an impressive season last time round, the 21-year-old has really flourished in this year’s March Madness, scoring 30, 23 and 27 points in the opening three games of the tournament.

His best game came when his team needed it most, scoring 40 and recording 16 rebounds as he helped lift Purdue to victory in the Elite Eight over Tennessee.

Meanwhile, DJ Burns Jr. has spearheaded NC State’s extraordinary run, capturing the hearts and minds of many neutrals with his nimble footwork, deft touch and persona.

Like Edey, Burns’ most impressive performance came in the Elite Eight, scoring 29 points as the Wolfpack upset No. 4 Duke and booked their first Final Four since 1983 – the same year they won their second, and last, national championship.

Burns embodied the never-say-die attitude NC State had continuously displayed in this year’s tournament, beating the No. 6 and No. 2 seed as well as Duke along the way.

“It’s a miracle run, but we’re not surprised,” head coach Kevin Keatts said before the team’s loss. “We don’t come into this tournament saying, hey, let’s just try to be here. We came (to the regional) to win it, and we did. Now we have to move on to our next stage.”

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