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NCAA Bracket 2019: Picks, Odds Advice, Schedule After Tuesday's First 4 Games

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2019

Darnell Edge had 33 points to lead Fairleigh Dickinson to a First Four victory over Prairie View A&M.
Darnell Edge had 33 points to lead Fairleigh Dickinson to a First Four victory over Prairie View A&M.John Minchillo/Associated Press

Fairleigh Dickinson didn't let a slow start prevent it from getting the school's first victory in the NCAA tournament, as the Knights overcame a 13-point second-half deficit and earned an 82-76 victory over Prairie View A&M in its First Four game Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio.

Shortly after the Knights and Rattlers left the court, Temple and Belmont battled and the Bruins came away with an 81-70 victory.

Fairleigh Dickinson was able to rally as a result of hot shooting by Darnell Edge, who scored a career-best 33 points as he connected on 7-of-9 shots from beyond the arc.

Edge was joined by Jahlil Jenkins, who scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half as the Knights were able to come through with a sharp offensive showing when the game was on the line. 

"Jahlil Jenkins has the biggest heart in Ohio right now,"said Fairleigh Dickinson head coach Greg Herenda, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "As a sophomore, he took over the game in the second half."

Fairleigh Dickinson advances in the West Region and will play top-seeded Gonzaga Thursday in Salt Lake City.

Kevin McClain scored 29 points to lead Belmont to the win over the Owls. He was joined by center Nick Muszynski, who contributed 16 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots. The win was Belmont's first NCAA tournament victory in school history.

Muszynski spoke with sideline reporter Dana Jacobson after the victory. "This just means so much to all of us," he said. "We've had so many good teams here and to finally get that win is an awesome feeling."

Belmont moves on and will play Maryland in Jacksonville, Florida, Thursday, as the Bruins make their move in the NCAA bracket

The second set of First Four games will be held Wednesday in Dayton, as 16th-seeded North Dakota State and North Carolina Central will meet for the right to play Duke in the East Regional.

North Dakota State is listed as a five-point favorite by Odds Shark.

After that game, Arizona State and St. John's will battle for the right to meet No. 6 seed Buffalo.

Both the Sun Devils and the Red Storm are listed as 11th seeds, with the former being 1.5-point favorites.

               

North Carolina Central (18-15) vs. North Dakota State (18-15), 6:40 p.m. ET, Tru TV

North Carolina Central earned its spot in the First Four with a victory over regular-season champion Norfolk State in the MEAC title game, using a sensational showing by its defense to key the win.

Center Raasean Davis and forward Jibri Blount are the Eagles' two leading scorers, and if those two are not getting the job done, North Carolina Central is going to struggle to find offense.

Davis is averaging 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game while hitting 64.5 percent of his shots, and Blount is scoring 10.5 points per night.

That defense is the key to the team's performance, because the offense regularly struggles to deliver.
North Carolina Central does not shoot the three-point very well, and that's an issue in the tournament. The Eagles hit 31.3 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.

North Dakota State is a better offensive team than North Carolina Central, scoring 73.2 points per game, but they are not likely to dominate on the defensive side of the court. They are allowing 72.2 points per game, ranking 196th among all NCAA teams.

North Dakota State can hit shots from beyond the arc as well as from the paint. Guards Vinnie Shahid and Tyson Ward are the keys for the Bison on the offensive end.

Shahid is averaging 12.8 points and connecting on 83.9 percent of his shots from the free-throw line, while Ward is scoring 12.3 points per night and connecting on 48.4 percent of its shots from the field. 

North Dakota State is shooting 36.6 percent from beyond the arc, and six of its seven leading scorers are shooting 35 percent or better from that depth.

Prediction: North Dakota State 70, North Carolina Central 62

           

St. John's (21-12) vs. Arizona State (22-10), 9:10 p.m. ET, Tru TV

St. John's may be like a shark smelling blood in the water when it faces Arizona State Wednesday night.

The Red Storm will play aggressive defense throughout and that could lead to a big night. St. John's averaged a Big East-leading 8.8 steals per game, while Arizona State has a tough time maintaining possession of the ball. The Sun Devils turn the ball over 13.6 times per game.

If it all works out well for head coach Chris Mullin and St. John's, the Red Storm could assert themselves early in the game with steals and forced errors. However, if Arizona State can pick it up in that area, the Sun Devils may use their strength on the boards to gain an advantage.

Shamorie Ponds is the key for St. John's on both ends of the floor. He leads the team in scoring with 19.5 points per night while shooting 45.5 percent from the floor, and he also had 2.6 steals per game. He is joined by Mustapha Heron, who is scoring 14.9 ppg and connecting on 42.1 percent of his three-point attempts.

Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley has a fairly balanced offense that includes four players in double figures.

Guard Luguentz Dort leads the way for Arizona State with an average of 16.3 points per game, and he is joined by guards Remy Martin (13.4 ppg) and Rob Edwards (11.3 ppg) along with Zylan Cheatham (11.8 ppg).

Look for St. John's to get the early advantage because of its defense, and Arizona State will be off-balance most of the night.

Prediction: St. John's 72, Arizona State 67

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