By Evan Bleier / March 20, 2019

First Four Winner Belmont Shaping Up to Be Cinderella in NCAA Tournament

Coach Rick Byrd got his first NCAA tournament win in eight trips to the Big Dance.

Kevin McClain #11 of the Belmont Bruins celebrates with teammates during the second half against the Temple Owls in the First Four of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 19, 2019 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Kevin McClain #11 of the Belmont Bruins celebrates with teammates during the second half against the Temple Owls in the First Four of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 19, 2019 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Belmont coach Rick Byrd has coached more than 1,200 games at four schools across four NCAA divisions and five conferences over 43 years in his coaching career.

But on Tuesday in Dayton during a First Four matchup, Byrd finally got his first NCAA tournament win.

It was a back-and-forth battle with Temple, but Belmont was able to eke out an 81-70 win and will now advance to play sixth-seeded Maryland on Thursday.

Prior to the win, Byrd had failed in seven attempts to get a win in the NCAA tourney.

“This is a historic night for Belmont University and our basketball program,” Byrd said after the game. “Just 48 hours ago, we didn’t know if we were gonna be in this. And I didn’t know if [seniors Dylan Windler and Kevin McClain] were gonna ever get to play in the NCAA tournament. And now they’ve got Belmont’s first win.”

In the win, Kevin McClain had a big night with 29 points and the Bruins (27-5) will need him to keep it going on Thursday against Maryland if Belmont is going to continue its, and Byrd’s, Cinderella story.

And there’s reason to believe the story will go on.

“The Bruins can give the Terrapins trouble Thursday,” according to the Nashville Tennessean. “That’s no stretch. Now let your imagination run a bit and you can see them getting past troubled LSU after that, banged-up Michigan State after that … bring on Duke and a shot at the Final Four. One win in this thing can make so much more seem possible.”