First Four: 5 things to know about Tuesday’s games at UD Arena

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 05: Nate Pierre-Louis #15 of the Temple Owls shoots the ball against Cole Swider #10 of the Villanova Wildcats in the second half at Finneran Pavilion on December 5, 2018 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Temple Owls 69-59. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 05: Nate Pierre-Louis #15 of the Temple Owls shoots the ball against Cole Swider #10 of the Villanova Wildcats in the second half at Finneran Pavilion on December 5, 2018 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Temple Owls 69-59. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The NCAA Tournament begins in Dayton for the 19th straight year Tuesday with the start of the First Four games at UD Arena.

Fairleigh Dickinson (20-13) plays Prairie View A&M (22-12) in the opening game 6:40 p.m. Tuesday on TruTV, followed by Belmont (26-5) against Temple (23-9) at about 9:10 p.m.

»RELATED: Fans can watch First Four practices Monday, Tuesday

The opening day of competition should feature some good 3-point shooting against good 3-point defense and some of the best turnover creators in the NCAA tournament field.

»RELATED: Ohio State headed to Tulsa for first-round game

Here are five things to know about Tuesday’s games:

1. Eye on the 3

Texas-based Prairie View ranks 36th nationally in 3-point shooting defense, limiting opponents to 31.3 percent behind the arc, but Fairleigh Dickinson (from New Jersey) ranks fifth for 3-point shooting percentage at 40.3 percent, so a big key in that game will be which one proves more successful.

FDU senior Darnell Edge is fourth among all Division I shooters behind the arc, hitting at a rate of 46.9 percent.

»RELATED: Cincinnati wins AAC; draws No. 7 seed

Overall, the Knights are a pretty solid overall shooting team, ranking 30th in field goal percentage (47.8), and they have five players averaging in double figures for scoring. Edge leads with 16.4 points per game, Jahlil Jenkins adds 13.5 points, Mike Holloway Jr. 12.5, Xzavier Malone-Key 11.4 and Kaleb Bishop 10.1 points per game.

2. Turnover trouble

Taking care of the ball will be important in the first game as well. The Panthers are 11th in steals per game (8.8), second in turnover margin at plus-5.5, and third in forced turnovers (18.24 per game). They've taken advantage of those mistakes to score at least 80 points in five of the last six games.

Meanwhile, FDU also has thrived off defense, ranking 39th with 7.7 steals per game. The Knights have held opponents to 71.3 points per game this season, and it seems to be a collaborative effort on defense. Dennis Jones leads with 2.2 steals per game, which ranks him 25th among all Division I players. Gary Blackston adds 1.73 steals per game.

3. Seeking firsts

The winner of the opening game will advance in the tournament for the first time in program history.

The Panthers have only made one trip to the NCAA Tournament, losing a 110-52 contest to Kansas back in 1998, so it’s been a long time coming for them to get back into the field. Fairleigh Dickinson is 0-5 in NCAA tournament appearance and last made a trip in 2016, also in the First Four when the Knights lost to Florida Gulf Coast. The seniors on the team have bookended their careers with Northeast Conference Tournament championships and seek a shot at top-seeded Gonzaga in the West region.

Both teams enter on a roll. The Knights have won eight straight overall and 14 of 16 since Jan. 21, and the Panthers beat their last 11 opponents and completely turned their season around after a dreadful 1-11 start.

4. Last ones in

Temple and Belmont were two of the last four teams to earn at-large bids, and the Owls have gotten particularly good at squeaking through in tight situations. Temple is 9-2 in games decided by five points or less, including a 4-0 record in overtime games, but couldn’t pull off a win over Wichita State in the American Athletic Conference tournament last week in Memphis.

A win against Wichita State likely would have made their entrance into the tournament easier to determine, but the Owls let go of a two-point halftime lead with 11 second-half turnovers and fell 80-74. Leading scorer Shizz Alston had 18 points in the first half and managed just two over the final 20 minutes.

This is Temple’s 33rd NCAA Tournament appearance and its first since 2016, which quickly ended in a 72-70 overtime loss to Iowa in the first round. Belmont last appeared in the tourney in 2015, which ended in a 79-67 loss to Virginia in the first round. The Bruins are 0-7 in the NCAA tournament.

5. Offense against defense

Belmont is one of the best offensive teams in the field, so it’s going to take a big performance on defense for Temple to advance.

The Bruins rank second in scoring offense with 87.4 points per game, fourth in field-goal percentage (49.9), 12th in 3-point field goals made per game (10.5) and second in assists (19.9 per game).

Temple can be disruptive on defense, averaging 8.7 steals per game, and the Owls have held opponents to 71.2 points per game. They’ve allowed 80 points or more just four times this season but only finished third in the AAC.


FIRST FOUR

UD ARENA

TUESDAY’S GAMES

Prairie View A&M vs. Fairleigh Dickinson, 6:40 p.m., truTV

Temple vs. Belmont, 9:10 p.m., truTV

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES

NC Central vs. North Dakota State, 6:40 p.m., truTV

St. John’s vs. Arizona State, 9;10 p.m., truTV

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