NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Alabama

We are getting closer to the final stages of the 2024 NCAA Tournament and after starting with 68 teams 13 days ago, there are just eight teams remaining, after 60 have been eliminated and by the end of Saturday night, two teams will have their tickets punched to the Final Four in Glendale, Arizona. The East Regional Final and West Regional Final will command the attention of the college basketball world in primetime, filling out the left side of the bracket and setting up one of the two matchups for next weekend's national semifinal. 

Up first will be No. 1 UConn taking on No. 3 Illinois in the East Regional final from Boston (6:09 p.m. ET, TBS and March Madness Live), where the Huskies have carried over the dominance from last year's six-game title march into their 2024 campaign to repeat. But in Illinois the reigning champs get not only their toughest foe of the tournament in 2024, but one with a higher offensive rating than any team in the country. 

Then the back end of the doubleheader will feature the unlikely matchup of No. 4 Alabama against No. 6 Clemson in the West Regional final from Los Angeles (8:49 p.m. ET, TBS and March Madness Live), with both teams surging into the weekend after upsetting the top two seeds in the region on Thursday night. All the Hollywood scripts for a reunion of North Carolina and Arizona's Caleb Love in the Elite Eight were rewritten over the course of 80 minutes of basketball, and now a new storyline has emerged with these two schools who are used to competing against each other for championships in football and now hit the hardwood with a Final Four bid hanging in the balance. 

This is the time when legacies are established and identities are forged. We play months of regular season basketball, but how we talk about the coaches, players and programs within the sport are defined by the results of single-elimination tournaments each March. A Final Four appearance is one of those benchmarks we always take note of, and Saturday night's games will provide that opportunity to two of this tournament's teams. 

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

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UConn's dominance has the Huskies on an all-time run 

The streak was more than extended after Thursday night's 82-52 win against No. 5 San Diego State, and now it's nine straight NCAA Tournament wins with each victory being by at least 13 points. The idea that Dan Hurley's group has been mowing down the tournament field since the very first game of last year's bracket checks out with how we're talking about the national title favorites, but when you put it in a historical context it's truly stunning what we're witnessing from the Huskies. The previous record for consecutive NCAA Tournament wins by double-digits was six, and that was only accomplished twice (1981-82 Indiana and 1954-55 La Salle) in the tournament's history. UConn has not only matched that but now extended it by 50% and given the quality of play from the Huskies in this tournament would be surprising if they doubled up the previous record?

Illinois had its breakthrough, now what? 

If there's a reason to believe that UConn's streak of double-digit victories is going to come to an end in the Elite Eight, it's that No. 3 Illinois presents arguably the toughest challenge to the Huskies' title hopes since facing Gonzaga, also a No. 3 seed at the time, in the Elite Eight last season. The Fighting Illini rate as the most efficient offense in the country and star guard Terrence Shannon Jr. is coming off a terrific performance with 29 points in the 72-69 win over No. 2 Iowa State in the Sweet 16. Illinois had not even reached the Sweet 16 since 2005 prior to this tournament, so there was some catharsis not only in breaking through but picking up a win in their first return to the second weekend. But now what? Unfortunately the history isn't great, as Illinois has just a 1-8 all-time record against top-two seeds in the NCAA Tournament, with the only win coming back in the 1989 Elite Eight. 

Either Alabama or Clemson set to make program history  

No. 4 seed Alabama is in the Elite Eight for the second-time ever and the first time since 2004, knocking on the door of the Crimson Tide's first-ever Final Four appearance. Clemson, too, has its own chance at making school history as the Tigers are in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1980, which was the program's only previous Elite Eight appearance. Clemson defeated Alabama earlier this season in the ACC-SEC challenge in a game in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but that Crimson Tide team was not the same as the group that was led by Grant Nelson in a season-saving effort against North Carolina in the second half. Both teams defeated top-two seeds on Thursday night by digging deep, so Saturday's regional final — and program history — is likely going to be decided by who has enough left in the tank. 

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

Elite Eight

Saturday, March 30
TD Garden -- Boston (Game 1) | Arena -- Los Angeles (Game 2)

Time (ET)GameTV / Stream
6:09 p.m.(3) Illinois vs. (1) UConn
TBS (watch live)
8:49 p.m.(6) Clemson vs. (4) Alabama
TBS (watch live)