North Carolina State coach Kevin Keatts had to build a winning program playing in the same conference and state as perennial powers Duke and North Carolina, so he had to be different.

Bringing in transfers is an all-too-familiar sight across college hoops. Keatts set himself apart from his ACC rivals by building almost an entire roster with transfers. Nine of N.C. State's 13 scholarship players this season came from different colleges.

It's safe to say Keatts went all in with the transfer portal — and it paid off big time with a surprising Final Four run in this year's NCAA tournament.

The 11th-seeded Wolfpack (26-14) were heading in the wrong direction with seven losses in the last nine regular-season games, including four consecutive losses before the ACC tournament. But N.C. State is on a nine-game win streak heading into Saturday's national semifinal game vs. Purdue.

"When basketball starts and you got a bunch of new dudes, it takes a long time," Keatts said earlier in the NCAA tournament. "It took us a while to get to where we are."

The top seven scorers for the Wolfpack and their entire starting five are transfers, including 6-9, 275-pound fan favorite D.J. Burns Jr. from Winthrop and leading scorer D.J. Horne from Arizona State.

The other three Final Four teams are relying on transfers as well.

Alabama has six transfers, including four starters. Ohio transfer Mark Sears had 23 points in the Elite Eight win vs. Clemson. North Dakota transfer Grant Nelson had 24 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in the Sweet 16 vs. North Carolina.

Defending national champion Connecticut has three transfers on its roster, including top scorers Tristen Newton (East Carolina) and Cam Spencer (Rutgers). Newton, who started on last year's team that won it all, now leads the Huskies in scoring (15.0) and assists (6.1).

Purdue coach Matt Painter's philosophy has long been to build a team the traditional route with freshmen. He found an experienced starting guard in the portal, in Lance Jones from Southern Illinois. Jones hit a clutch three-pointer with under three minutes remaining in the Elite Eight vs. Tennessee.

Burns, a native of Raleigh, N.C., started his career redshirting at Tennessee before transferring to N.C. State two years ago. He made the NCAA tournament once during three years at Winthrop.

"Coach [Keatts] gave me an opportunity to come back home and play basketball," Burns said. "And the confidence that he instills in me every day allows me to go out there and do what I do."

Keatts didn't traditionally play through the post, but that all changed after he recruited Burns, who had 29 points in the Elite Eight vs. Duke.

"When D.J. hit the transfer portal, I was like, man, I got to change," Keatts said. "I've never thrown the ball inside as much as I have in the last couple of years. Great touch. Great footwork."

Burns vs. the Boilermakers' 7-4 two-time National Player of the Year Zach Edey is arguably the most intriguing individual matchup in the Final Four.

In the case of Alabama vs. UConn, the Sears vs. Newton battle should attract the most attention. Both were finalists for the Bob Cousy Award given to the nation's top point guard.

Newton was averaging 17 points and seven assists in the first three games in the NCAA tournament until he was held to five points on 0-for-6 shooting vs. Illinois. The Huskies overcame Newton's lack of scoring to post a fourth consecutive blowout last week in the Elite Eight. One of the unsung heroes was Spencer, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Sears is averaging 24 points in the NCAA tourney. But former Wofford big man Nick Pringle made an impact with his 16 points and 11 rebounds in the victory over Clemson that secured Alabama's first Final Four.

N.C. State, Alabama, Purdue, and UConn are the last ones standing in college basketball. They are all leaning on transfers — some a lot, others at least a little. Another thing in common is they can't add anyone yet from the portal, which opened after Selection Sunday.

"Obviously, we have players that we know won't return," UConn coach Dan Hurley said. "So we want to play out the season and, obviously, we'll deal with our roster situations [later]."