The opening night of the NCAA Tournament presents a pair of First Four at-large teams with the ability to advance far in the big dance. The No. 11 seed Temple Owls (23-9, 13-5) tied for third in the AAC. However, they were upset in their first conference tournament game by the Wichita State Shockers. The loss knocked the Owls down a peg, but they still have an opportunity to move on. It shouldn’t be an easy task.
They are facing the Ohio Valley Conference regular season co-champion. The No. 11 seed Belmont Bruins (26-5, 16-2) lost in the conference championship game to the Murray State Racers. The entire week leading up to Selection Sunday was spent on whether the Bruins would get an invite to the NCAA Tournament or become a top seed in the NIT. Luckily for everybody, we will get to see the Bruins perform on a singular stage.
11 Temple Owls (23-9) vs. 11 Belmont Bruins (26-5)
When: Tuesday March 19, 9:10 p.m. EDT Aprox
Where: Dayton, Ohio – UD Arena
Betting Line: Belmont -3.5 o/u 155.5
Temple Owls Breakdown–
The Owls have three double digit scorers. Shizz Alston Jr. leads the way with 19.7 points per game. Quinton Rose is pouring in 16.5 points per game. Nate Pierre-Louis is producing 13.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He leads the Owls in rebounding from the guard position. Nobody else scores more than six points per game.
The Owls average 74.8 points per game. They are giving up 71.2 points per game. Therefore, they have 3.6 point differential on the season. Keep in mind, the Owls lose games by an average of 7.8 points per game. The majority of their games were within single digits. Only two of the losses came by double digits this season. They lost to the No. 6 seed Villanova Wildcats by 10 points. They also had a bad loss to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane by 18 points. It was their worst performance of the season. The Owls are (15-15) against the spread. They are (17-14) with the o/u.
More importantly, the Owls have been consistent throughout the season. Their four-game winning streak to start the season was the best run of the year. They completed another four-game winning streak in the middle of the season. The Owls also had four 3-game winning streaks this season. Their only losing streak came in late-January when they fell to the No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats and No. 3 Houston Cougars in back to back games. Otherwise, the Owls have done a great job in not turning a single loss into a devastating week. In all, the Owls are (2-2) in neutral site games.
Belmont Bruins Breakdown–
Dylan Windler leads the Bruins with 21.4 points and 10.7 rebounds. Kevin McCain is averaging 16.3 points and 4.1 assists per game. Freshman center Nick Muszynski is producing 14.9 points and 5.9 rebounds. Keep an eye out on freshman guard Grayson Murphy. He leads the team with 6.6 assists per game. He must be able to handle the pressure of the First Four.
The Bruins are an elite scoring team. They are averaging 87.4 points per game this season. Defensively, they are giving up 73.9 points per game. As a result, they enter the NCAA Tournament with a 13.5 scoring differential. It just highlights their dominance during the regular season.
One of the reasons why the Bruins earned an at-large bid was due to a pair of wins over the Lipscomb Bisons. If they lost those two out of conference games, the Bruins would have missed the NCAA Tournament without a doubt.
Unlike many teams, the Bruins didn’t play any neutral site games during the season. Therefore, they only have two games to rely on. They won their semifinal game in the OVC, 83-67. However, the Bruins lost the championship game by 12 points. Still, the Bruins were (12-3) in true road games. Therefore, they should be comfortable away from home.
They are (18-10) against the spread and (16-14) vs. the over. This team is elite when it comes to winning. The Bruins had winning streaks of 14 games and 6 games this season. They also had a pair of three game winning streaks. That’s all 26 wins this season. Like Temple, the Bruins had one 2-game losing streak this season. Meaning, somebody is going to have consecutive losses to end their season.
Pick– Belmont 84 – Temple 77