Edey on Purdue, UConn Finals: ‘We wouldn’t want it any other way’

GLENDALE – Isn’t this the matchup everyone wanted? No. 1 overall seed Connecticut vs. No. 3 overall Purdue.

Sorry Kansas. Sorry Arizona. Sorry Houston, et al. You’ll have to watch from home.

Arguably, the two most-deserving programs this season – UConn came in No. 1 and Purdue No. 3 before the tournament – are here in the finals for the title at State Farm Stadium. Tipoff is a 6:20 p.m.

Purdue is 34-4. UConn is 36-3.

“We wouldn’t want it any other way,” said Purdue’s Zach Edey, the Boilermakers’ two-time college player of the year.

Purdue’s Zach Edey speaking to the media on Sunday about UConn.

UConn feels the same way.

“We’ve been two dominant teams that haven’t fallen apart,” said Donovan Clingan, UConn’s impressive center. “It’s what everyone needs … seeing two of the best teams in the past two years battling it off for a National Championship – there’s nothing better.”

Said UConn’s Cam Spencer: “Obviously we have a lot of respect for them and their program. They won the national championship for a reason. I’m sure people have been waiting to see this one for a while. We’re locked in and will be ready to go.”

They don’t have a choice. And neither does Purdue, which faces a team that has beaten teams by an average of 25 points in the last five games. As Purdue coach Matt Painter said, “they’ve dominated people, not just bad teams but great teams.”

The Boilermakers know it.

“They understand what we’re up against,” Painter said. “They understand we haven’t played anybody like UConn. They’re not fools. We have cable where we’re from, so… We’re very familiar. I think that’s the number one thing of not fearing your opponent but respecting your opponent. We have a lot of respect for UConn. They have great individual players; they have a great coach. So understand it, absorb that (and) take that in.”

Donovan Clingan talks all things Zach Edey on Sunday.

Purdue hadn’t been to the Final Four since 1980 and the championship game since 1969. Can history repeat itself, and maybe, just maybe, Purdue win the title? It’s 6.5 underdog.

Still, the history being the last time – and only time – a team lost as a No. 1 seed to a 16-seed the previous season (like Virginia did in 2019) it was able won a title, like Virginia did in 2019. So, it can happen.

Painter said he understood the narrative and it’s a legit one, now his team must go out and play.

“Use it in a positive spin,” he said.

Whatever works. While UConn must solve the puzzle that is Edey, and all that goes with stopping a 7-foot-4, 300-pound center, Purdue must try to slow the juggernaut that is UConn,

No team has been close. They’ve played so well in the last game – heck, for the entire season – that one wonders how they last at all.

“They’ve done a phenomenal job,” Painter said. “To win the national championship, then to be back in this position, I think there’s a lot of things that come with ultimate success that’s hard to do what they’ve been able to do.

“To be able to piece a team together, be able to compete and win multiple championships in their conference, in the tournament, and to keep that focus. The way they’ve won, you know, there’s been some teams that have hung in there with them, then they’ve separated from them. There are some other teams that have gotten flat-out blitzed.  They’re probably the best I’ve seen in a long, long time in being able to take your mistake and make you pay for it at times when you make mistakes.”

They’re so good, Purdue can’t even compare them to anyone they’ve faced to this point. Remember, Purdue faced Arizona in early December when Arizona was rolling.

“I don’t know necessarily how to classify them in their own class,” Mason Gillis said. “But they won the national championship last year. They deserve the respect that they’ve gotten. We’ve done our work to get here. They’ve done their work to get here.”

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