Alabama v Connecticut
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The NCAA Tournament is one of the most beloved American sports traditions in part of because of its unpredictability. We call it March Madness because the results so often defy logic and expectations, which is why it's so rare for the national championship game to feature two teams that were among the very best in the country throughout the regular season. 

Monday night's title tilt between UConn and Purdue (9:20 p.m. ET, TBS and March Madness Live) will be just the 10th meeting of No. 1 seeds in the national championship game since seeding began in 1979. And as Dan Hurley said on Saturday night, it truly is great for men's college basketball to have this kind of title game between two teams that have been at the top of the sport not just for this season but really over the last two years. The difference between the two obviously being that UConn won the national championship last year while Purdue was the second-ever No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the first round of the tournament.

But Hurley is correct in identifying these two programs as the class of the sport over the last two years, and that's just one reason why Monday night's matchup is so special. It does not guarantee that it will be a good game, but it does guarantee that the champion, regardless of winner, will be a fitting champion to represent this chapter of college basketball. Sometimes the sport's national champion isn't the best team from that season as much as it is the best team during that particular tournament. Here in 2024 with UConn and Purdue, we've got the rare case of having not just two of the best teams from the entire season but also two of the most impressive teams in this tournament. 

Now that we've celebrated the rarity of this 1 vs. 1 title bout, let's get into some of the storylines in the matchup. 

Zach-zilla vs. Cling Kong 

For the second time ever, and the first since 1984, we have a matchup of two 7-foot starters in the national championship game of the NCAA Tournament. But what makes this even more special is how the matchup of Purdue's Zach Edey and UConn's Donovan Clingan doesn't just share gaudy height measurements with the last instance, that being Georgetown's Patrick Ewing against Houston's Akeem (Hakeem) Olajuwon in 1984, but also the status of being the most important and dominant piece of each team's title run. As the now-crowned two-time Naismith National Player of the Year, Edey is an established of the college game who has just continued to add to his accolades in an NCAA Tournament run that has seen him average 28.0 points and 15.4 rebounds per game. The only other players to average at least 25 points and 15 rebounds in an NCAA Tournament run of four games or more are Blake Griffin (2009), Artis Gilmore (1970), Elvin Hayes (1968) and Lew Alcindor (1968). 

Clingan, meanwhile, has emerged as the most dominant individual star for his team here in the postseason, and while he may not come anywhere close to the college career of Edey he certainly has continued to garner attention and buzz regarding his prospects for the 2024 NBA Draft should he choose to enter. CBS Sports' Kyle Boone has Clingan climbing into the top five of his most recent mock draft, and the way that UConn's star sophomore has imposed his will on both the offensive and defensive ends certainly speaks to his versatility and ability to contribute at the next level. Clingan is averaging 16.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game in this tournament, and in the final 10 minutes of UConn's Final Four win against Alabama he went into takeover mode with blocks at one end dunks at the other to turn a tie game into yet another double-digit win for the Huskies.  

Streaks and droughts

We know that this is just the tenth time since 1979 that two No. 1 seeds have faced off for the national championship and just the second-time ever we have two 7-foot starters going head-to-head in the season's final game, but the historical implications of Monday night extend far beyond those first two notes. First, UConn is looking to become the first back-to-back champion since 2007 Florida and just the third repeat champion in the last 50 years, joining those 2006-07 Gators and the 1991-92 Duke squads that won Mike Krzyzewski's first titles. Dan Hurley indicated to CBS Sports' Matt Norlander on Saturday night that he appreciated the fact that his UConn program was going to have to go through a team of Purdue's caliber in order to make history, which is a nod to his respect for the Boilermakers and the difficulty of winning 12 consecutive games in the NCAA Tournament. 

Speaking of Florida, the No. 1 overall seed has won the NCAA Tournament just three times since the selection committee began declaring a top seed in the field in 2004 and it hasn't happened in more than a decade (2007 Florida, 2012 Kentucky, 2013 Louisville). The Huskeis will try to do that as they also look to maintain their unbeaten 5-0 record in national championship games and extend a streak of 11 straight NCAA tournament wins by 13 points or more, which is a tournament record they matched in last year's title game and only continue to extend in this season's campaign. 

But what about Purdue? For the Boilermakers, the implications of winning on Monday night bend more towards ending droughts than extending streaks. The program has already ended some droughts by making the Final Four for first time since 1980 and reaching the title game for the first time since 1969, when they lost to a John Wooden-coached UCLA team that was led by Lew Alcindor (who had 37 points and 20 rebounds in the Bruins win).

But Purdue would love to end the "honor" of having the most all-time NCAA Tournament wins without a national championship (49), and in doing so snap the Big Ten's drought of having no teams win the national championships since Michigan State in 2000.  

Look for newcomers to emerge as X-factors

Though established stars like Edey and Tristan Newton, both first team All-Americans, or even Donovan Clingan, are going to dominate the conversation there is a real chance that this matchup between two of the top programs from the last two seasons will be decided by new additions prior to the start of the 2023-24 campaign.

Purdue has some of the highest year-over-year retention of any tournament team, bringing back most of the pieces from last year's heartbreak loss to No. 16 FDU in the opening round. But the one new addition to the starting lineup proved to be among the most important players in the semifinal win against NC State as Southern Illinois transfer Lance Jones stepped up and buried a team-high four three-pointers on the way to 14 points with some key defensive stops as well in the win. Jones will need to be big again against UConn, especially facing a group of Huskies on the perimeter who present size and athleticism challenges for most of the teams they play. 

UConn has a few more newcomers in the primary rotation after losing three of its top six scorers from last year's national championship squad, but those players too have been big in key moments during the tournament run. True freshman Stephon Castle was a matchup nightmare for Alabama and finished with a team-high 21 points, and Rutgers transfer Cam Spencer also had a strong, well-rounded performance with 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the win. 

The primary story for both of these teams includes an extension of what happened last season. For UConn it's the chance to follow up a national championship with another and for Purdue it's the chance for the ultimate redemption, matching Virginia's path from losing to a 16-seed to winning it all. But when it comes to breaking down the matchup the biggest difference-makers might not come from players who had anything to do with last year -- for better or worse -- and those newcomers are ones to watch as X-factors in Monday night's title game. 

Check out the full TV and streaming schedule for Monday's national championship game below.

2024 NCAA Tournament schedule

National championship game

Monday, April 8 
State Farm Stadium -- Glendale, Arizona

Time (ET) Game TV/Stream

9:20 p.m.

(1) UConn vs. (1) Purdue
Ian Eagle / Bill Raftery, Grant Hill // Tracy Wolfson

TBS/TNT (watch live)