Both Prairie View and Fairleigh Dickinson finished near the top of their respective conferences so being here isn’t a surprise. Prairie View dominated the SWAC and had only one Conference loss, falling on the road to the second-best team. They lost almost every non-Conference Game, but that had a lot to do with Schedule with fairly close Games against Baylor, UNC Greensboro and Murray State.
It was the same situation for Fairleigh, though while it finished tied for first in the NEC, it still had six Conference losses. The good news for the Knights is that they’ve won their last eight and 14 of their last 16. The main difference between these teams is that Prairie View likes to run a little more and that’s why its offensive numbers are better. That high tempo has led to the second-highest defensive turnover rate in the country, but also terrible rebounding and free throw numbers. On the other end, the Panthers don’t have great numbers for the season, but they’ve been a little better in Conference play even if that has to do with Schedule. They’ve scored at least 80 points in their last Four Games, while Fairleigh has struggled defensively most of the season and has one of the worst defensive rebounding rates in the country.
The Knights shoot an incredible 40.5% from three, fifth best in the nation, but that’s also one thing Prairie View does well defensively, allowing 27.5% in Conference play. Of course, some of that has to do with SWAC competition, but it’s not like the NEC is much better than the SWAC. Fairleigh has a balanced squad with five guys that Scoremore than 10 points per Game, all of them being able to shoot from distance. Darnell Edge leads the team at 16.4 points per Game and a ridiculous 46.9% from three. The question is if depth will become a problem for them in a nationally televised Game. Fairleigh runs just six guys deep, while Prairie View has the third-best free throw rate in the country, meaning they draw a ton of fouls. If Fairleigh gets into foul trouble, that’s an immediate issue for a small roster.
On the other side, Prairie View needs to keep doing what it’s been doing and that’s making shots. The Panthers don’t have good shooting numbers, but that changed in the Tournament as they made eight threes in the Championship. Gary Blackston isn’t a great shooter, but he leads Prairie View in scoring at 15.2 points per Game, as he draws six fouls per 40 minutes. Unfortunately for Fairleigh, Devonte Patterson and Taishaun Johnson also draw a ton of fouls.
These teams display contrasting styles in that Fairleigh relies a little more on threes, while Prairie View is all about speed and attacking. If the shots fall, Fairleigh gets the edge, but if the defensive pressure and attacking style of Prairie View gets to them, that could be what decides this Game.
Our Pick – Fairleigh Dickinson -1.5