Some years - most years maybe - the First Four is a weak joke. Well not this year.
We were blown away by Prairie View and immensely impressed by their performance Tuesday, which was only topped by Farleigh-Dickinson’s late comeback. Jahlil Jenkins was sensational for the Knights.
Remember when Prairie View was most famous for epic winning streaks? Not any more. That’s a solid, well-coached team. They were tremendous. And unlike a lot of smaller schools, they even had snappy uniforms. Prairie View has had six winning seasons.
Go ahead, read that again. That’s six winning seasons. Ever. And that team played that well? Couldn’t be more impressed. They’re not in the field as an act of charity. That team earned and deserved it.
In the nightcap, and in Fran Dunphy’s Temple swan song, the Owls and Belmont put on a show with Belmont winning 81-70. Both were really good, well coached teams, but Belmont’s offense can be a thing of beauty. The Bruins are famous for their three point shots but the three pointers also open the inside and the difference in this game was from the line: Belmont hit 16 to Temple’s seven which, coincidentally or not, was just about the margin of victory.
With the wins, Belmont moves on to take on Maryland in Jacksonville and Farleigh Dickinson gets Gonzaga in Salt Lake City.
As far as it goes, life should be a lot easier for Belmont.
Belmont relied heavily on starters but they’re playing at or at least close to sea level. Farleigh-Dickinson got 14 bench minutes total and are playing Gonzaga at 4,200 feet.
First of all, it’s Gonzaga and they like to move fast. Second, little-known fact: Spokane’s elevation is 1,843 feet.
Gonzaga has seen early upsets before but at 4,200 feet and with the starters all pulling 36+ minutes? We just don’t see how Farleigh-Dickinson has a chance.
On Wednesday, NC Central plays North Dakota State at 6:40 with the winner getting Duke, and Bobby Hurley leads Arizona State against St. John’s in the 9:10 nightcap. Tuesday’s going to be hard to top.
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