First Four: Temple vs Belmont Preview and Prediction
Temple vs Belmont Preview
March Madness is here and the First Four matchup between these two 11-seeds will be fun to watch. The game not only features two of the most respected coaches in the game today, Belmont’s Rick Byrd and Temple’s Fran Dunphy, but both teams are capable of busting some brackets.
Belmont (26-5), which secured its 10th conference regular season championship in 14 years, earned the first NCAA Tournament at-large bid in program history, and the second in Ohio Valley Conference history (Middle Tennessee, 1987). This will be Belmont’s eighth NCAA Tournament appearance (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2019).
The Bruins rank top 25 nationally in 12 statistical categories, including first in assists per game and total assists, second in scoring offense and assist to turnover ratio, fifth in field goal percentage, and sixth in offensive efficiency and defensive rebounding.
The Owls (23-9) are making their 33rd NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2016. Head coach Fran Dunphy, in his 13th and final season with Temple, is making his 17th career trip to the NCAA Tournament to tie legendary Owls’ coach John Chaney for the most NCAA appearances with a Philadelphia Big 5 school (nine at Penn, eight at Temple).
Temple’s win over No.25 and 9-seed UCF in the AAC Tournament likely pushed them into this spot–they also handed 3-seed Houston their first loss of the season in January (the Cougars only had three all season).
Players to Watch
For Temple, they have a solid supporting cast, but they all support their senior leader Shizz Alston. The First Team All-AAC selection leads the AAC with 19.7 points per game and is going to be Temple’s first conference scoring leader since Khalif Wyatt in 2013. He also ranks first in free-throw percentage (.907), first in minutes played (37.1 per game), second in assists per game (5.0), and fourth in three-pointers made per game (3.0). Alston, a three-time AAC Player of the Week and four-time
Junior guard Quinton Rose (AAC Second Team) ranks second on the team and ninth in the AAC with 16.5 points per game, while sophomore Nate Pierre-Louis (AAC co-Most Improved Player) is third on the team with 13.3 points per game and second with 5.7 rebounds per game. Alston’s co-captain, senior Ernest Aflakpui, is coming off his fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and a career-high 19 rebounds vs. Wichita State in the AAC quarterfinals.
Belmont has a trio of players that will need to be contained led by senior guard Dylan Windler who ranks third in the OVC with 21.4 points, leads the conference in rebounding (10.4) and adds 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. No doubt, he paces the Bruins–if he has an off game, it will be difficult to envision Belmont advancing.
Kevin McClain is another senior guard that can get hot from anywhere on the floor and light up the scoreboard. He averages 16.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
The true X-Factor in my mind on this game is OVC Freshman of the Year Nick Muszynski. Nationally the freshman ranks 18th in field goal percentage (61.5%) and 26th in blocked shots (2.18) entering this week. In addition to those categories, among OVC players he is ninth in scoring (15.0) and 13th in rebounding (6.0) and free throw percentage (77.1%). Muszynski scored in double figures in 23 of 29 games, including a season-high 27 points in only 24 minutes of action against Southeast Missouri. He had a season-best 11 rebounds in a win over rival Lipscomb and blocked five shots in wins over Illinois State and Lipscomb.
If the Owls can’t contain Muszynski in the paint–Belmont could be dancing past the First Four.
LINE: -3 Belmont
Dan’s Bet: -3 Belmont
Score Prediction: Belmont 84 Temple 75