Purdue v Connecticut
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Zach Edey went quietly. 

No, not like that. The man had 37 points Monday night against UConn, the most in a national championship game since 1978. But Purdue's 7-foot-4 center left the State Farm Insurance court the same way he entered the program four years ago: stoically. 

A subdued exit was probably assured before the 75-60 loss in the national championship game. Edey reveals himself about as often as an eclipse. Which, of course, was fitting considering the events Monday afternoon.

No sun for a few minutes in large swatches of the country. Even Edey disappeared at a key time. There was a 16½-minute span Monday where -- for all his greatness -- Edey went 1-for-8 including an airball from the line and two turnovers. After scoring 16 in the first 15 minutes of the game, Edey was still outstanding. He was also neutralized. The aircraft carrier who had averaged 32 minutes per game this season and 29.5 points in the tournament was gassed with four minutes left in the final college game of his career.

Yes, Zach Edey went quietly. He also had company. The day before, Iowa's Caitlin Clark ended her career losing 87-75 to South Carolina in the women's championship game. Two national players of the year. Two national stories. Two phenomena. 

One sad championship result.

"There's only so much you can do," Clark said.

There was a lot of talk about burdens after each players' final game. Their ends were similar. As great as they were, neither had a back strong enough to carry their programs across the finish line. It showed. Clark scored 18 of her 30 points in the first quarter against South Carolina. That total tied for fourth most in a women's championship game. By the time Edey had made his last four consecutive shots the game had long been decided. 

"We didn't care if Zach took 25, 28 shots to get 30, 35 points," said UConn's Danny Hurley who said the plan was limit guards Fletcher Loyer, Lance Jones and forward Mason Gillis. "Keep that collective group under 18, 20 points … They had no chance to win, no matter how well Zach played."

Edey took 25 shots. Loyer, Jones and Gillis combined for five points. The better team eventually won. 

There was a lot of talk about talk specifically about Edey's burden. Purdue coach Matt Painter and his players talked eloquently about the crap their big man endured in hostile road arenas.

"You know you're doing something right when people hate you," teammate Fletcher Loyer said. "A lot of people hate us. Zach has a lot of people hate him."

But why? Because he was tall? It was a stark difference compared to his fellow Naismith Player of the Year.

When Clark went on the road, she filled arenas with her game, talent and charm. When Edey went on the road, well, let's just say there was a lot of bitterness saved up for Monday's postgame in Purdue's locker room.

"I call it 'Cartoon Bad Guy,'" Purdue coach Matt Painter said of the perception of Edey. "There's a bad guy that gets all the hate and everybody is coming at him. The best player in college basketball, the best player in your conference becomes 'Cartoon Bad Guy.'

"There's millions of basketball players out there that would love to carry that burden. Not everybody can do it. ... He's done it."

The only millions they talk about in the women's game is the record number of viewers this season. The game was definitely more interesting to watch for a lot of reasons other than Kim Mulkey's wardrobe choice. 

There was an actual postgame routine at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The police blocked off the tunnel that led to Iowa's locker room so Clark could sign objects handed down to her from the stands. They were all from fans screaming her name like she was Taylor Swift. 

"I know what's next is soon," Clark said Sunday. "But at the same time, I'm not blind to the fact that I need to enjoy this."

Edey was speaking to a reporter from his native Canada afterwards Monday when he was asked about his legacy.

"I don't want to move past this right now," Edey said. "I want to stay in the Purdue family right now."

Sound familiar? They were both kids getting a little dusty about the end. 

Two national players of the year like this may never pass this way again. Clark shot logo threes, threw passes like Magic Johnson and had a charming sass on the court. Ice Cube wants to pay her $5 million to play against retired NBA stars in a 3-on-3 league. 

Edey affected the game as a back-to-the-basket big man. Had Purdue won, Edey would have been the first 7-foot national champion to average 20 points since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1969. Both scored 37 points in their final college game. 

Edey was asked if his career went beyond setting the standard at Purdue, whether it actually -- like Clark -- did change the game.

"I just played basketball the way I thought was most effective," Edey said. 

Hey, we said he went quietly. Edey actually went from doubted, unpolished high school prospect to the biggest, best big man in decades. The two-time national player of the year could have easily been named the most outstanding player of the Final Four. (UConn's Tristen Newton got it.)

Clark's shoe deal alone could set her up for life. Edey had issues getting NIL money because he was an international player. He also could play 15 years in the NBA. There are different routes to the same goal. 

It's the moments above that remind why we love the college game in the first place. No matter how many NIL deals are struck or how much more money coaches and commissioners can stuff in their pockets, there are still these shreds of innocence. 

"For someone to go through as much as he's gone through, to get as much hate as he gets, it's ridiculous," Loyer said. "I wouldn't want to be in his shoes. Whether he's going to the NBA or not, I wouldn't want to go through that. 

"People are still going to say, 'Purdue was only good because he's Zach. Zach's not even that good.' What are we [doing] here?" 

Those haters won't have Edey to kick around anymore. But they'd kill to have him on their team. Painter told a detailed story about how his center went from playing 17 minutes, scoring points, getting six rebounds, four fouls and committing six turnovers to something better.

"Then, all of the sudden six games later he's not elbowing people in the head anymore," Painter said.

It was fun to watch the four years for each player. Heck, it's fun to watch every college career when it develops like this. It's not fun to watch it end. It's not fun to watch the eyes of 21-year-old tear up just a bit at the end of it all. 

"Obviously everyone shows grief in a different way," Edey said.