Edey vs. Clingan follows other great matchups of big men in title game

Donovan Clingan and No. 1 Connecticut. Zach Edey and No. 1 Purdue.

Getting the no-doubt top two teams of this season to meet for the national championship is enough to make Monday night must-see TV. Adding in this matchup of big men might make this one of the most exciting pairings in recent NCAA men’s tournament history.

Edey is the most decorated player in program history. The two-time Naismith player of the year stands with Bill Walton and Ralph Sampson as the only multiple winners in the award’s history.

Edey against Clingan ranks among the most highly anticipated frontcourt matchups in championship game history.

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Here’s more on Monday’s tilt and four others from the past 40 years:

2024: Donovan Clingan (Connecticut) vs. Zach Edey (Purdue)

This will be a ‘battle of the giants,’ Connecticut coach Dan Hurley said. ‘I think it’s just great for college basketball to get the two big dogs playing on Monday night.’

Edey, 7-foot-4, and Clingan, 7-foot-2, are special defenders capable of controlling the paint. Edey averages 24.9 points per game and is the more polished scorer, but Clingan’s game has stepped up in the past month. Where Clingan may have an advantage is in transition; his ability to get down court led to a pair of dunks that sealed the deal against the Crimson Tide. Will he play more than his customary 25 minutes? Edey has been on the court for every key minute of play during Purdue’s run to the championship game and could take advantage of Clingan’s absence.

2006: Joakim Noah (Florida) vs. Greg Oden (Ohio State)

Oden’s freshman year at Ohio State remains one of the great debuts by a big man in NCAA history. The future first-overall pick averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game to earn All-America honors. But he was held in check by Noah in the championship game, picking up just seven points and six rebounds while battling foul trouble in the Gators’ 86-60 win.

1990: Larry Johnson (UNLV) vs. Christian Laettner (Duke)

This one was all UNLV: Johnson poured in 22 point and pulled down 11 rebounds as the Rebels beat Duke 103-73 in the biggest blowout in championship game history. Just a sophomore, Laettner had 15 pounds and nine rebounds to go with five assists. (Tournament heroics were just around the corner for Laettner.) Johnson was an All-America pick in 1990 and the national player of the year in 1991.

1988: Danny Manning (Kansas) vs. Stacey King (Oklahoma)

Manning carried Kansas all the way to the national championship with one of the great individual performances in tournament history. That was capped by a 31-point, 18-rebound performance against King and the Sooners, in the third matchup on the year between the two conference rivals. King averaged 22.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game that season and was even better as a senior, when he finished with 26 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. But he managed just 17 points and seven rebounds in the 83-79 loss to the Jayhawks.

1984: Patrick Ewing (Georgetown) vs. Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston)

There may never be a matchup of centers that pitted the 1984 head-to-head tussle between Ewing and Olajuwon, who would repeat this battle a decade later in the NBA Finals. Ewing is one of the greatest players in NCAA history, a dominant post presence who led Georgetown to three appearances in the title game. Olajuwon and the Cougars played for it all in 1983 and 1984, losing both times. The two played to a draw in the Hoyas’ 84-75 win, with Ewing clocking in with 10 pounds, nine rebounds and three assists, and Olajuwon finishing with 15 pounds and nine rebounds.

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