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Previews and predictions for NCAA men's final four


The NCAA basketball tournament is heading into its last weekend. Last night on the show, we previewed the women's Final Four matchups. They're happening tonight. So now we turn to the men. It would not be March Madness without surprises and upsets. And this year, of course, did not disappoint. But could there be even more to come? Well, Andy Katz is here to help answer that and to set expectations as we head into the Final Four. He's a sideline reporter for TNT Sports. Hey again, Andy.

ANDY KATZ: Hello, Mary Louise. How are you?

KELLY: I am great. I will remind people. You and I last spoke a week ago. Back then, it was the Sweet 16. If you have been living in a cave since then, what's happened? Catch us up.

KATZ: Well, first of all, if memory serves, I think your son's bracket is still alive, because we talked about UConn and Purdue.

KELLY: Good memory. Yes. My teenagers are rooting hard for Purdue.

KATZ: Yes. So UConn and Purdue are still alive. They've been the two most dominant teams throughout the course of the season and potentially on a collision course for a matchup Monday night for the national championship. But they have to get by Alabama and NC State, respectively. And you don't think about Alabama in the context of any kind of Cinderella or anything like that because of its dominance in college football. But it's crazy. Alabama has never been to the men's basketball Final Four. And last year, they were No. 1 seed with a lottery pick, and they didn't get there.

KELLY: Yeah.

KATZ: And here, this year, they have a collection of transfers. And they are here after upsetting North Carolina last week in LA and then Clemson to face off against the goliath in UConn. As for NC State, they're on a magical run.

KELLY: Yeah. They came in as - what? - like 11th seed in this tournament?

KATZ: Yes. Well, what's crazy is they lost their last four regular season games. They had to win the ACC tournament just to get in, which meant winning five games in five days, which has never happened before. And they've knocked off their rivals in the ACC tournament. They beat Duke and Carolina. And then they had to go through Duke again in the Elite Eight last weekend in Dallas. And NC State, as an 11 seed, is a true Cinderella in the context of that. And the last time they were in the Final Four was 1983. If they were to beat Purdue and then possibly UConn, I would say it would be right up there with one of the greatest upsets that we've seen, and certainly comparable with what NC state did in '83.

KELLY: Okeydoke. So are you watching for anything specific in tomorrow's game, specific plays, players, strategy?

KATZ: Well, for Alabama, they're going to have to make threes. They made 16 to beat Clemson. I witnessed because I was on the sideline covering it last weekend in Boston. And I've never seen, in three decades of covering, the sport a 30-0 nothing run that UConn put on Illinois. And that's because of turnovers and quick shots. And Alabama just cannot do that or else they're just going to run into this freight train that UConn has become by beating everyone by double digits.

As for NC State, their guards are going to have to make shots and turn Purdue over for them to have a chance. You know, if there's one team that I think could beat UConn, it is Purdue. And so I hate to say I'm kind of rooting for the story, Mary Louise, because I think that's the story we want to see on Monday night.

KELLY: The Purdue-UConn story. OK. I don't know if you're allowed to make a prediction on who will take it all in that championship game on Monday, but I'll try to tempt you. If you had to put your money on a team, it would be...

KATZ: Well, I don't put my money on, but I do make predictions. But I will go with UConn. You know, I'd have to put out a bracket. So I did put out my bracket. I had a UConn-Purdue final, so I'm going to stick with it, and then - with UConn winning back-to-back titles for the first time since Florida did it in '06-'07.

KELLY: Andy Katz, bracketology expert and sideline reporter for TNT Sports. Good luck to all the teams. We'll see what happens. Thank you.

KATZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Kathryn Fox
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.