In a truly shocking turn of events, North Carolina State is about to make its first Final Four appearance in four decades when the Wolfpack face the top-seeded Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday in Phoenix.

These teams traveled very different roads to get where they are today, but both proved one thing: A 300-pound man can really make a difference.

Purdue and NC State are very similar teams in terms of how they are constructed. Both win by funneling the ball to their big men and dominating in the paint, which opens up space for their guards on the perimeter. However, these teams are polar opposites when it comes to what was expected of them heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Purdue vs. North Carolina State Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – March Madness Final Four Betting Lines 4/6

Moneyline: Purdue (-450), NC State (+350)
Spread: Purdue -9.5 (-105), NC State +9.5 (-115)
Total: Over/Under 146.5 points

Purdue vs. NC State Injury Report

Purdue has no injuries to report. North Carolina State, on the other hand, is missing freshman guard Dennis Parker Jr., who is still dealing with an ongoing illness that has kept him sidelined. Wolfpack sophomore guard LJ Thomas is also away from the team for personal reasons, while fellow sophomore MJ Rice was redshirted for this season.

Purdue vs. NC State Prediction and Pick 

Although the Wolfpack might adamantly deny it, this NC State team is the clear and obvious Cinderella story in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. After knocking off sixth-seeded Texas Tech in its South Regional opener, NC State took down 14th-seeded Oakland in the second round before going on to upset No. 2 Marquette and No. 4 Duke. The Wolfpack averaged a 10.5-point margin of victory in their wins over the Golden Eagles and Blue Devils.

The (not so) secret to NC State’s success has been DJ Burns Jr., who scored 29 points in as many minutes against Duke and has become the focus of the Wolfpack’s offense. Given how effective Burns is near the basket, NC State is able to play a simple, turnover-free game to convert a high percentage of possessions into points. So far, this strategy has been enough for the Wolfpack to register two of the biggest upsets in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Purdue, however, is a very different team than the ones NC State has already beaten.

Zach Edey, the Boilermakers’ 7-foot-4 center, is an absolute monster. He is much bigger and taller than Burns, which creates an interesting dilemma since Burns is not necessarily a mismatch the Wolfpack can maximize like a cheat code against Purdue. The question is whether he will be as effective against Purdue as he was against previous opponents. It's hard to answer that question at this point. What we do know is that Edey will be hard for NC State to stop.

Against the Vols, Edey was on top of his game – scoring 40 points and getting to the free-throw line a ridiculous 22 times. That was no easy feat, since Tennessee's Dalton Knecht gave Purdue a run for its money with his impressive 37-point performance. Knecht helped the Vols take an early lead, but when the game was on the line, Edey stepped up by scoring 14 consecutive points to seal the victory and send Purdue to the Final Four.

Edey is averaging 30 points and 16.3 rebounds per game in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and he is having his way with opponents, even though they know what’s coming when they face him. His Purdue teammates are also playing a vital role in getting him the ball. Sophomore guard Braden Smith had a mind-boggling 15 assists in the Boilermakers’ blowout win over Gonzaga and was able to create shots with the space Edey opened up for him on the perimeter. At the end of the day, however, Purdue’s team is clearly the Zach Edey show, and it has been extremely effective.

Saturday will feature a clash of titans, as two of the nation’s very best big men square off with a trip to the national championship game on the line. This semifinal should therefore be electric. The bottom line for NC State is that it can’t allow Purdue’s Edey to take 22 foul shots like he did against Tennessee.

Once Edey got the ball in the paint during Purdue’s Elite Eight game against the Vols, there was simply nothing anyone could do. The only way to break up an easy Edey layup was to foul him. Unfortunately for Tennessee, the referees got so caught up in the rhythm of calling fouls when Edey drew contact that he began to get foul calls even when there was almost no contact. Although Burns is considerably smaller than Edey, his 275-pound official listing is considerably lower than his current weight. NC State’s only chance against Purdue is to leverage Burns’ size in an effort to limit Edey’s scoring.

If they plan to beat Purdue, the Wolfpack will need to slow the game down and limit the number of total possessions, while using their high shot-efficiency to grab an early lead like Tennessee did. If they give Purdue more possessions, they will just be giving Edey more chances to beat them. NC State also needs its other DJ – senior guard DJ Horne -- to repeat his 20-point performance from last week. With so much of the focus on Burns, Horne is sure to get some open looks on Saturday evening, and he needs to make those shots count.

Assuming Burns and the Wolfpack put up more of a fight at the rim than Tennessee did, Edey is likely going to need some more scoring help from his guards. Against the Vols, Smith, Fletcher Loyer, and Lance Jones shot a combined 10-for-26 (38 percent) from the field and an underwhelming 3-for-15 (20 percent) from beyond the arc. Tennessee had one of the nation’s better perimeter defenses this season, so it made sense that the Purdue guards’ shooting percentage was relatively low, but another performance like this from Purdue, in combination with NC State’s better defense against Edey, could lead to an unpleasant outcome for the Boilermakers.

The Pick: Purdue -9.5 (-105)

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Points Total

Some of the betting lines for this game suggest that Purdue is -- and should be -- a clear favorite to win this game. Several lines have NC State much closer to Purdue than the ESPN Matchup Predictor’s numbers, which give the Boilermakers an 89.6 percent chance of winning.

The spread for this game is listed as Purdue -9.5 points, which feels like a pretty tough pick. Meanwhile, the over/under is set at 146.5 points, which would require these teams to average 73 points apiece in regulation. Personally, I would smash the under on this. Purdue fell behind early against Tennessee last weekend, and the Boilermakers had to rush possessions to force their way back into the game. However, given how both Purdue and NC State play, it makes sense for whichever team is winning to try slowing down the game and sitting on the lead.

NC State’s Elite Eight matchup with Duke played out in similar fashion, and late fouls inflated the final score. Don’t be shocked if the winner of this game ends up with a point total in the mid-60s.

The Pick: Under 146.5 Points (-110)

Spread Bet

As far as the moneyline goes for this game, NC State is +340 and Purdue is -440. It doesn’t feel as though there's any home-run opportunity there, unless one is extremely confident in either of these teams. Those planning to wager on this game will be better off looking toward the spread.

Both schools’ programs are going to be in tough spots after this season, because top players on each team will be running out of eligibility. Rebuilds are therefore imminent. Purdue has battled tremendous expectations over the past few years, and after failing time and time again, the Boilermakers have finally have lived up to the hype. NC State wasn’t expected to be here in the first place, and the Wolfpack now feel the weight of the world in trying to make the most of this opportunity. Time is running out for both schools, and only one will have the chance to play for a national championship.

That said, if you have to pick an outright winner, Purdue is the slam-dunk choice. The Boilermakers are a No. 1 seed for a reason, and they haven’t wavered at any time during this tournament. Zach Edey is going to do what Zach Edey does -- barring anything unforeseen. When it's all said and done, these Boilermakers, led by one of the game’s all-time greats, should be positioned for another crack at Purdue’s first national championship.

The Pick: Purdue -9.5 (-105)

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