April 15, 2024

March Madness 2024 picks: Expert predictions for NCAA Tournament Final Four, national champion


The final weekend of the 2023-24 college basketball season is approaching. Saturday, the Final Four emanates from Glendale, Arizona, with a national champion to be crowned next Monday. No. 1 overall seed UConn looks to become the first team in nearly two decades to repeat as champions. The Huskies could become the eighth different school — and first since Florida in 2006-07 — to win back-to-back NCAA Tournament titles.

Standing in the way of history is a unique group of Final Four participants. Alabama is in the Final Four for the first time in school history after knocking off Clemson in the Elite Eight. NC State and Purdue are making their first appearance in the final weekend of the college basketball season since the early 1980s.

Purdue and Alabama have never won the NCAA Tournament, while NC State captured national championships in 1974 and 1983. UConn is seeking its sixth national title and could join North Carolina for the third-most championships all-time behind UCLA and Kentucky.

UConn is the heavy favorite to cut down the nets as it continues a run of dominance throughout the last two tournaments. The Huskies have won their last 10 NCAA Tournament games by double-digits and opened as an 11-point favorite against the Crimson Tide in the national semifinals on Saturday.

Who will win every college basketball game, and which favorites should be on upset alert? Visit SportsLine now to get picks and predictions for every college basketball game, all from a model that simulates every game 10,000 times.   

2024 Final Four expert predictions

Gary Parrish

Either UConn or Purdue was ranked No. 1 in 12 of the 20 AP Top 25 polls published this season, which is among the reasons it’s fitting that the Huskies and Boilermakers are now more likely than ever to meet in the title game of the 2024 NCAA Tournament. Both are sizable favorites in the national semifinals. I believe both will advance. Then, I’m taking Purdue over UConn in what should be a classic championship game tilt. Yes, I know UConn would be favored over Purdue, and I know UConn is the only remaining team that has not lost at home or on a neutral court this season. The Huskies are obviously and undeniably awesome. But I’ve been on Zach Edey and the Boilermakers for much of this season, and I’m simply going to believe in them as our next national champions until somebody eliminates them from contention.

Matt Norlander

I guess we’re gonna do that thing where everyone picks the same result. Hard to not. UConn looks legitimately unbeatable; it will take an act from the heavens to end this team’s reign of terror over the tournament. And you want to know the scariest part? The Huskies haven’t even played a complete game so far! It’s true. They beat Illinois by 25 and shot 3 of 17 from 3-point range. Ridiculous. I’ll go Purdue over NC State because Edey has entered into a zone rarely touched by college greats. He joins Wilt Chamberlain, Elvin Hayes and Jerry West as the only players ever to average at least 30 points and 15 rebounds through four NCAA tourney games. Purdue is over the hump. It has an advantageous matchup against NC State. It feels like we are fated to have a Huskies-Boilermakers title game, and what a fabulous finale that would be. I am not picking against UConn. I haven’t done it for months, and there is zero reason to change.

Kyle Boone

UConn was my pick to win the NCAA championship prior to the tournament, and the Huskies remains my pick as we head into the Final Four. They’ve destroyed everyone in their path thus far en route to a second consecutive Final Four and appear destined to become the first repeat champs since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007. Alabama, and presumably Purdue, loom large in their way, and I wouldn’t be surprised if both give them tight games. But UConn has been operating at a higher level than any other team this postseason with depth, size, defense and skill. UConn is the team that seems destined to cut down the nets. 

David Cobb

UConn’s Donovan Clingan is one of the only players in college basketball physically equipped to defend 7-foot-4 Purdue star Zach Edey. At 7-foot-2 himself, Clingan is averaging 17 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game over the Huskies’ last five contests. The Huskies also have a more dynamic group of players around their star center than Purdue. If Edey is less efficient than usual because of the matchup with Clingan, UConn’s supporting cast can carry the day and bring the program its second straight championship.

Cameron Salerno

It feels weird to pick chalk given how chaotic last weekend was, but that’s what I’ll go with because Purdue and UConn are on a collision course to meet for the national title. On one side, you have the unstoppable force (UConn) vs. the immovable object (Purdue’s Zach Edey). If any player in this tournament can contain the reigning National Player of the Year, it’s UConn big man Donovan Clingan. The Huskies are winning games with style points and by large margins. It’s hard to see anyone getting in UConn’s way of repeating.

Dennis Dodd

Sometimes it’s best just not to overthink things. UConn is on one. Purdue has the best big man in years, for starters. This is going to stir the message boards, but I’ll take both favorites by double digits. Hey, I’d love to see NC State wake the echoes of 1983 (We’re all DJs!). I actually remember when Alabama was a football school. That being said, both semifinals should be clinical. The stoic Zach Edey came out of his shell a bit Sunday in the win over Tennessee. Seems like he can’t be stopped. Same for UConn, although I’m having trouble seeing how the world is against the Huskies. Danny Hurley has created that narrative, perhaps as motivation. (Coaches NEVER conflate hate, do they?) Better just to play it straight, Dan; you have the best team. Look for the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2007. 

Jerry Palm

Purdue has been on a mission since the jump, and that mission did not stop with simply earning a Final Four berth. It’s been a while, but the Boilermakers have done that before. The goal remains winning the whole thing. Nobody is more determined than Zach Edey, who has leveled up on his dominance in this tournament. UConn has been terrorizing foes in this field, but Edey is still the unstoppable force.

Chip Patterson

It’s rewarding when a chaotic, single-elimination tournament still places some of the best teams from the entire season on the game’s biggest stage in the Final Four. That’s what we have with UConn and Purdue making it to Glendale, and I think all of the excellence that has been sustained for months will lead to a separation in the semifinals setting up an all-time title tilt. The Huskies have a big to match Edey, wings that can disrupt the perimeter and enough scoring options to create matchup advantages depending how Purdue wants to attack on defense. What we saw in UConn’s 30-0 run against Illinois was not a fluke but rather a culmination of a season-long focus on doing every small thing at an elite level. Now is when that work pays off, and I think it will again with a second straight championship for Dan Hurley and the Huskies. 





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