The annual NCAA Tournament kicks off Tuesday in Dayton with the first set of the First Four games. No. 16 seed Prairie View A&M takes on fellow No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, while 11 seeds Belmont and Temple battle it out. Here’s what to expect from the first two games of the Big Dance:
Prairie View A&M vs. Fairleigh Dickinson
After starting the year 1-11, Prairie View A&M won 21 of their final 22 games. They fell to NCAA Tournament teams Baylor by 11 and Murray State by 16 earlier in the season. The Panthers are led by Gary Blackston, who averages 15.2 points per game and seven rebounds per game.
Fairleigh Dickinson punched their ticket to the Big Dance by winning the NEC tournament, knocking off St. Francis (PA) in the finals. The Knights head into the tournament on an eight-game winning streak and are led by Darnell Edge’s 16.4 points per game.
The winner gets one seed Gonzaga on Thursday in Salt Lake City, UT.
Prediction – Fairleigh Dickinson: 76, PVA&M: 72
Belmont vs. Temple
It was close, but Owls’ coach Fran Dunphy got Temple into the tournament in his final season in Philadelphia. The veteran Owls finished third in the AAC, led by Shizz Alston Jr.’s 19.7 points per game.
The Belmont Bruins will be making their eighth NCAA Tournament appearance and their first as an at-large. It will be interesting to see Alston Jr. go up against Belmont’s lefty-scorer in Dylan Windler, who’s averaging 21.4 points per game this season.
Both teams have experience and talent, and both have the ability to advance to the Sweet 16. The winner gets Maryland in Jacksonville, FL on Thursday.
Prediction – Belmont: 78, Temple: 71