PJ's Predictions: First Four Games
The 2019 season has just begun for college basketball, the start of March Madness, beginning with the first four and the round of sixty-four. This season has been full of excitement going into the tournament, with many young prospects demonstrating their talent. It all comes down to the sudden death tournament, and if you lose one game you are out. For some teams, this is a great opportunity to restart, but they will have to face the top teams in the country to win it all. Lots of fans are filled with excitement and suspense waiting for it to all go down.
Starting with the eight teams battling in the round of the First Four, who barely made the tournament. These teams are NC Central, North Dakota State, Fairleigh Dickinson, Prairie View, Belmont, Temple, Arizona State, and St John's. NC Central will face North Dakota State, Fairleigh Dickinson will face Prairie View, Belmont will face Temple, and Arizona State will face St. John’s.
NC Central is the champion of the MEAC tournament, they have not had the greatest year, but found themselves a way into the tournament. They have had some experience in the tournament however, considering this is their third straight year in the tournament. Playing against them is North Dakota State, the Summit League Champions. This team has little experience in the tournament, only being in it three times. Their last appearance was in 2015 losing to Gonzaga in the first round. The farthest they have ever made is the second round. They are a decent team but will not be able to outlast NC Central.
Fairleigh Dickinson is a team that has not made the tournament for many years. They have had five appearances and have lost in the first round every time. Their latest appearance was 2016, getting blown out in the first four by Florida Gulf Coast. Prairie View is a team that looks promising but will have to play in the first four. They are the Champions in the SWAC conference, getting by each team in the conference without a problem. Although they are promising, Prairie View has little experience with only one NCAA tournament appearance in 1998. Both of these teams have little experience and will not last longer than the first round, but the talent of Prairie View will give them the win.
Belmont versus Temple seems to be the best game of the first four, Belmont playing well against top teams and Temple playing well in a power six conference. Belmont is a team that has a lot of talent, and if they win will have the chance to upset Maryland. Belmont has been in the tournament seven times in the twenty-first century but has never made it past the first round. They compete well against good teams and will prove to continuously perform well matching up against Temple. Temple has had a great year in the American conference, losing early in the conference tournament but still making the NCAA tournament. They have had to face tough teams throughout the year such as Houston and Cincinnati and will be ready for the game, but will not be able to pull out the win against Belmont.
Arizona State will be going up against St. John’s in the First Four, which should be the most evenly matched game. Arizona State, one of the three teams from the Pac 12, has gone up against teams that have the potential to go far in the tournament. This experience will help them when they face St. John’s, but they have not proved to be able to beat a top team when it matters, losing to Oregon. Arizona is a well coached team, but they will lose in a nail biter to St. John's. The Red Storms have proven that they can beat top teams, defeating Marquette twice in the regular season and VCU once. They have players who play hard and shoot very well. They have the ability to beat a top team when it matters and will defeat Arizona State in a close game.
The First Four games will be intriguing and will make the bracket exciting but only one team might make it past the first round, likely Belmont. Although it is not likely, many remember last year when the number one Virginia lost to a sixteenth seed in the first round, showing that a big upset can change the entire tournament.