GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The national championship game will be a beefy one.

In one corner of the paint is Zach Edey, Purdue’s 7-foot-4, 300-pound unstoppable force. Opposite him will be Donovan Clingan, UConn’s 7-2, 280-pound game-altering center.

One big man is predicted to be an NBA lottery pick. The other is not in most projections, despite being the first repeat AP national player of the year since the early 1980s.

“There is absolutely a place in the NBA for Zach,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.

Where Edey fits at the next level is a question mark heading into his final college game, against UConn in Monday’s national championship game.

Edey has been college basketball’s most dominant big man in decades, his size and skill making him almost impossible to defend.

Edey led the nation during the regular season with 24.9 points per game and was second in rebounding, averaging 12.2. He shot 63% from the floor and dominated at the defensive end, blocking 2.16 shots per game.

Edey has been even better in Purdue’s run to its first Final Four since 1980, becoming the first player in NCAA Tournament history with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in six straight games.

The question marks about Edey in the NBA come from his mobility and shooting range. He has size unlike any college player in years, but doesn’t have the lateral mobility front offices covet in today’s NBA.

Edey plays almost exclusively with his back to the basket and rarely shoots from the outside — 1 for 2 from 3 this season — so NBA scouts don’t really know if he can shoot from the perimeter.

Then again, Edey’s sheer size, nimble footwork and ability to find open shooters through double teams makes him a rare commodity. Once considered a second-round NBA draft pick, Edey has seen his stock rise during this season’s run, with some scouting services putting him just outside the lottery.

“It’s a unique challenge. He’s a unique player,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “I don’t think one thing is going to work in the game. You have to keep him off balance.”

Clingan is built different as well. He was a top-50 recruit out of Bristol Central High School in Connecticut and played a key role in the Huskies’ fifth national championship a year ago.

Clingan has taken huge strides this season, becoming the focal point of UConn’s offense and defense. He averaged 13.1 points on 64% shooting and 7.4 rebounds on a team loaded with talent.

UConn’s big man averaged 2.5 blocked shots per game and, like Edey, has such a presence most players won’t even challenge him. Illinois found out what happens when you do in the Elite Eight, missing all 19 shots he contested.

Clingan is good on the low post, has solid footwork and is an adept passer out of double teams. The difference between him and Edey, at least in the eyes of scouts, is his agility and potential ability to shoot from the perimeter.

Clingan hasn’t shot many from the 3-point arc — 2 for 7 this season — but has the type of touch that’s expected to translate to the spread-out NBA game.

“Clingan is really good,” Painter said. “He changes the game defensively, but offensively he’s a good player, too. He’s just going to keep coming. He’s going to be a fabulous player. He’s got 15 to 20 years in front of him.”

Edey likely does as well. It’s just a matter of proving what he has done at the college level will work in the NBA.


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