The best player against the best team.

Likely National Player of the Year repeat winner Zach Edey against supernova Connecticut, last year’s national champion.

No. 1 seed against No. 1 seed.

We’re only two games away from that being a reality on the final night of the season, and what a sight that would be.

One juggernaut against another, a captivating scenario that would make for incredible theater.

Just for fun, throw in Connecticut coach Dan Hurley losing his mind after every foul Edey draws.

Nobody has stopped the 7-foot-4 Edey in two years.

Even when Purdue was upset by FDU in the first round last season — just the second time a No. 1 seed has gone down to a No. 16 — Edey had 21 points and 15 rebounds.

He sent the top-seeded Boilermakers to the Final Four on Sunday with a 40-point, 16-rebound masterpiece in a hard-fought victory over No. 2 Tennessee, and is averaging 30 points, 13.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in this tournament.

Then there are the Huskies, who have won a record 10 straight tournament games by double figures.

Who have prevailed in their four games by an average of 27.8 points.

Who have a stud center of their own, 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan, who was the Most Outstanding Player of the East Regional after crushing Illinois at both ends of the floor.

And who have a deep and dynamic roster that has treated the dance so far like a series of buy games, and is the lone team in the country ranked in the top five in both offensive (first) and defensive (fourth) efficiency.

Connecticut is chasing history, looking to become the first team since Florida in 2006-07 to repeat.

Purdue is trying to pull a 2018-19 Virginia, go from suffering a historic upset to cutting down the nets the following year.

Both teams still have a game to win first — UConn will meet No. 4 Alabama while Purdue takes on No. 11 N.C. State on Saturday night in Glendale, Ariz. — but this showdown feels inevitable.

Both schools beat higher-rated opponents than they will see at State Farm Stadium.

It would be reminiscent of the 2007 final, when Florida met Ohio State and Greg Oden, the future No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

Oden was a force, producing 25 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, but the Gators prevailed to complete the back-to-back run.

History could repeat itself in eight days.


Hurley is brash, he’s cocky, and it’s easy to dislike him unless he coaches your team.

If you’re a Big East fan, though, you have to respect him.

You also must love how he’s carried the flag for the league throughout this tournament.

Hurley has used every opportunity to stump for the conference, even bringing up the Big East unprompted on several occasions.

The latest occasion came after Saturday’s Elite Eight thrashing of Illinois, when he brought up a perceived slight about the Huskies’ toughness coming from Illinois fans and a former Illinois player, Sean Harrington, who now works for ESPN.

There was this idea talked about on X, that a UConn staffer brought to Hurley’s attention, that it wasn’t used to tough teams like Illinois out of the Big Ten.

Hurley called the sentiment “asinine,” since the Huskies come from an extremely tough league, and reiterated his opinion that his league should’ve received six bids.

The selection committee only picked three Big East teams, which has been a major storyline for a few weeks now, especially with the six-bid Mountain West flopping in the dance in such extreme fashion.

Only Connecticut advanced past the Sweet 16 — Creighton and Marquette suffered disappointing losses in that round — but Hurley isn’t going to let anyone forget about the rest of the conference as long as his Huskies are still playing.


As Connecticut dismantled Illinois, I kept thinking back to what St. John’s coach Rick Pitino told me on Friday, that the teams with the best chance of stopping the Huskies were Big East foes Creighton and Marquette.

Obviously, those two teams were knocked off, so we won’t get that matchup, but Pitino’s reasoning was simple: To beat the Huskies, you better know everything about them.

An anonymous Big East coach told me that you can’t adequately prepare for what UConn does by merely watching film, because of how hard they play and how fast and intricate they run their offense.

The Illini certainly seemed shell shocked once Hurley’s team went on one of their patented runs to start the second half, and the decision to keep attacking Clingan made very little sense, considering how little success they were having going at him.

Illinois coach Brad Underwood said the Big Ten Tournament champion had seen teams like Connecticut before after it reached the Elite Eight.

He was obviously wrong.

Unless you’re in the Big East, you have seen nothing like these Huskies.


Some cool local angles in the Final Four.

– Former Hofstra and St. Peter’s guard Aaron Estrada of Woodbury, N.J. reaching the biggest stage of the sport with fourth-seeded Alabama. A two-time CAA Player of the Year, Estrada has thrived in the SEC as the Crimson Tide’s second-leading scorer and top distributor.

– Queens natives and friends Hassan Diarra of Connecticut and Mouhamed Dioubate of Alabama face each other Saturday night. The duo both came up under longtime AAU coach and retired police officer Rob Diaz. The experienced Diarra, UConn’s sixth man, has served as a mentor to Dioubate, a four-star freshman forward who comes off the bench for Alabama. UConn has three other New York City natives on staff: Associate head coach Kimani Young and director of player development Mamadou Diarra of Queens and graduate assistant Malik Martin from Staten Island. Martin’s older brother, Hassan, starred for Hurley at Rhode Island.

– N.C. State starting point guard Michael O’Connell, a Stanford transfer from Mineola, L.I. O’Connell made the biggest shot of the season for the Wolfpack, a banked-in 3-pointer to force overtime in the ACC Tournament semifinals. Otherwise, the ACC school was headed to the NIT — and coach Kevin Keatts may have lost his job — instead of this remarkable run of upsets that has it in the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 1983. His older brother Thomas spent a year at St. John’s in 2019-20 after a strong lacrosse career at Maryland.

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