NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament South Regional-NC State vs Marquette

The first two weekends of the 2024 NCAA Tournament have provided plenty of thrills, unexpected results and high-level competition. It's an event that rarely falls short in those categories, so it's fitting that the last two regional finals on Sunday feature a nice balance of everything the tournament has to offer. 

First will be the Midwest Regional final from Detroit, where the bracket has been chalky but storylines are strong. No. 1 seed Purdue is looking for its first Final Four since 1980 and the first of the Matt Painter era, but standing in the way is No. 2 seed Tennessee (2:20 p.m. ET, CBS). Just like Painter and Purdue, Volunteers coach Rick Barnes is wrestling with his own NCAA Tournament narratives with just one Final Four appearance (with Texas in 2003) and none since taking over at Tennessee in 2015. It's the only matchup between top-two seeds in this year's Elite Eight, and yet it seems to be the game in which both teams, and programs, have the most to gain from advancing to Phoenix. 

Then, we go from chalk to one of the most busted brackets with the South Regional final from Dallas between No. 4 Duke and No. 11 NC State (5:05 p.m. ET, CBS) for the third time in four weeks. It's a rubber match after Duke won in the regular season on March 4 (79-64), followed by a revenge game by the Wolfpack in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals on March 14 (74-69). The latter proved to be a key turning point in NC State's five wins across five days to claim the league's automatic bid. 

The South Regional saw No. 3 Kentucky lose in the opening round and both No. 1 Houston and No. 2 Marquette fall in the Sweet 16, leaving the door open for Duke to knock on the door of its 18th Final Four appearance and first of the Jon Scheyer era. NC State, now in its first Elite Eight appearance since 1985, is seeking the program's fourth Final Four appearance and first since winning the national championship with Jim Valvano and the Cardiac Pack in 1983. 

Let's take a look at some of the storylines to know for Sunday's Elite Eight matchups. 

Another Maui rematch for Purdue

Duke and NC State is not the only Elite Eight game on Sunday that features a rematch from the regular season. Purdue and Tennessee met in the Maui Invitational back in November. In fact, Purdue's run to the title in Maui involved wins against Gonzaga and Tennessee, so catching the Vols two days after downing the Zags in the Sweet 16 does set up well for the Boilermakers ability to capitalize on advantages they had in the first matchup. 

The 71-67 win for Purdue featured 23 points and 10 rebounds from Zach Edey and a team-high 27 points from sophomore guard Fletcher Loyer. Neither team was particularly efficient on the offensive end, but Purdue did a better job of getting to the line. The +18 advantage in free-throw attempts proved to be the difference in an extremely competitive game that went down the stretch in the second half. 

Can the Vols do a better job of avoiding foul trouble against a Purdue team that all season long has been one of the best at getting to the free-throw line? As is always the case with Edey, how the game will be officiated is going to play a huge role in some of the coaching decisions throughout the game's most important stretches. 

A heavyweight bout down low

Duke's Kyle Filipowski and NC State's DJ Burns provide one of the best head-to-heads of the day. How they perform on offense and defending the rim on defense will play a huge role in the matchup. When reviewing how each performed during the two previous meetings this year, individual production did not correlate with team success. Filipowski was excellent in the loss to NC State in the ACC Tournament, totaling 28 points and 14 rebounds, but was largely a non-factor in the 15-point Blue Devils win in Raleigh with just nine points and two rebounds in 22 minutes of action. Burns had a great stat line in NC State's loss (27 points on 12 of 19 shooting) but was the team's fifth-leading scorer with 10 points in the conference tournament win. 

How Duke attempts to double-team Burns, and how effectively he can find shooters on the perimeter, adds a wrinkle to this matchup. NC State's coaching adjustments should be monitored, too, when it comes to opting for Mohammed Diarra or Ben Middlebrooks as a primary defender when Duke tries to pull the bigs out in pick-and-roll situations. There are many notable levels to this familiar matchup in an unfamiliar setting, including high-volume bucket-getting guards on both teams, but the strength down low promises to be a key tipping point in the game. 

Tennessee hopes to get healthy in time for tipoff 

Starting senior guard Santiago Vescovi was absent from Tennessee's Sweet 16 win against Creighton with an illness. Coach Rick Barnes said Saturday that Vescovi "looked better," and the expectation is he'll be ready to go on Sunday against Purdue. Vescovi averages just 6.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, but he's been an invaluable piece for this team and this program throughout his career. Friday was the first missed game of the season for Vescovi and just the fourth absence in his 152-game career with Tennessee. He's the program's all-time leader in both starts (144) and steals (212). Having his perimeter defense against Purdue's much-improved backcourt seems to be a huge factor. Otherwise, the Vols may struggle to disrupt the Boilermakers offense or prevent them from getting into a rhythm with Edey inside and capable three-point shooters ready to make a defense pay for over-committing. 

Check out the full TV and streaming schedule for Sunday's Elite Eight games below.

Time (ET)GameTV / Stream

2:20 p.m. 

(1) Purdue 72, (2) Tennessee 66

(Condensed game)

5:05 p.m. 

(11) NC State 76, (4) Duke 64

(Condensed game)

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