NCAA Tournament 2019: Winners and Losers of Tuesday's First Four Games

Sean Highkin@highkinFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2019

NCAA Tournament 2019: Winners and Losers of Tuesday's First Four Games

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    The 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament is officially underway as the opening pair of First Four games kicked things off Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio.

    The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights defeated the Prairie View A&M Panthers 82-76 in the early game, coming back from a 13-point second-half deficit. They earned the right to play No. 1 Gonzaga on Thursday.

    No. 11 seeds Temple and Belmont faced off in the second, and Belmont prevailed 81-70. They move on to face No. 6 Maryland in the East region during the round of 64.

    Here are the winners and losers from the first day of March Madness action.

Winner: Darnell Edge, Fairleigh Dickinson

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    FDU senior guard Darnell Edge was electric Tuesday night, leading all scorers with 33 points on 9-of-13 shooting and knocking down seven three-pointers in nine attempts.

    The Knights literally got nothing from their bench. The five starters scored all 82 of their points, with Jahlil Jenkins adding 22 alongside Edge's scoring outburst. Without the same depth as Prairie View A&M, they needed Edge and the rest of the starters to step up in a big way.

    They did.

Loser: Prairie View A&M's Tournament Record

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    This would've been the first NCAA tournament win for either school in the early play-in game. 

    The Panthers have only qualified for the Big Dance one other time in program history, losing as a No. 16 seed to Paul Pierce and the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks in 1998.

    Twenty-one years later, they're still searching for their first March Madness win. They had their chance to secure it, leading by as many as 13 points in the second half before a late collapse left them as a one-and-done for the tournament.

    Meanwhile, FDU picked up its first win after five prior losses, even if its tournament run will likely come to an end Thursday when the No. 16 seed faces No. 1 Gonzaga.

Winner: Greg Herenda, Fairleigh Dickinson

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Last year, FDU coach Greg Herenda spent just over two weeks hospitalized with blood clots and a high fever.

    His Knights earned the first NCAA tournament win in school history a season after that near-death experience. They last made the tournament in 2016, losing to Florida Gulf Coast in the First Four matchup. Now, they're headed to the round of 64.

    Even if Fairleigh Dickinson loses to top-ranked Gonzaga on Thursday—and there's every reason to believe they will—Herenda's perseverance through a serious health scare and the program's first March Madness victory have given the nascent 2019 tournament its first feel-good story.

Loser: Gary Blackston, Prairie View A&M

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Prairie View A&M senior guard Gary Blackston was outstanding Tuesday, scoring 26 points to lead his team. One of his six three-pointers kept the Panthers within range late in the second half, but they ultimately fell short. 

    Leading the program to its first tournament victory would have been a fantastic note at the end of Blackston's collegiate career. Unfortunately, he and the Panthers saw their brief run come to an end Tuesday.

Winner: Kevin McClain, Belmont

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Belmont senior guard Kevin McClain paced the Bruins and led all scorers with 29 points. He was the driving force behind their strong second-half performance, which sealed the win and a trip to the round of 64 against No. 6 Maryland.

    McClain shot an efficient 8-of-14 from the field against Temple—the latest standout performance during a season in which he's averaging a career-high 16.3 points while shooting 36.7 percent from three-point range. He drained another four threes Tuesday while taking just seven attempts.

    Another night like this could make Belmont a solid upset pick.

Loser: Fran Dunphy's Final Act

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Fran Dunphy recently announced he would retire at the end of the 2018-19 season. Thus, Tuesday night's First Four game will go down as the final contest of his career.

    Temple made the NCAA tournament in eight of 13 seasons under Dunphy, although the Owls never advanced to the Sweet 16. This play-in game, which would have set up a matchup with No. 6 Maryland, was his last chance to embark upon a deeper run.

    Dunphy is retiring after nearly five decades on collegiate sidelines. He spent the last 30 years as a head coach, taking the Temple job in 2006 after he spent 17 years at the helm for Penn.

Winner: Fans of High-Scoring Basketball

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Seventy points was the lowest total earned by any of the four teams that played Tuesday.

    Belmont didn't quite hit its average of 87.4 points, as Temple was able to slow it down slightly. But the Bruins still controlled the pace of the game, and it paid off while they held their foes to the night's lowest score.

    In the earlier game, both teams connected on over 40 percent of their looks from three-point range. Prairie View A&M shot a whopping 15-of-28 (53.6 percent) from beyond the arc, while the victorious Fairleigh Dickinson hit nine of its 21 threes (42.9 percent).

    The breakneck pace of both First Four games contributed to an entertaining opening night of March Madness action.

Loser: Temple's Bench

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Justyn Hamilton scored six points off the bench for Temple, and Alani Moore II added three.

    Other than that, the Owls bench provided nothing, leaving the starters to do the heavy lifting.

    On the other side, all three Belmont reserves who saw the court scored, which took pressure off the first unit and prevented the opening quintet from having to carry the entire offensive load. Down the stretch, this scoring disparity allowed the Bruins to pull away and secure a berth in the round of 64.