Editor’s Note: We like to laugh here at the Byrd Cage and we hope you do too. That’s why we’re happy to announce the return of Mort & Hugs. Our two in-house professional gripers/comedians who’ve never met a D1 athlete they weren’t scurd to anonymously mock on the internet.
Posts Tagged ‘byrd’
Editor’s Note: We like to laugh here at the Byrd Cage and we hope you do too. That’s why we’re happy to announce the return of Mort & Hugs. Our two in-house professional gripers/comedians who’ve never met a D1 athlete they weren’t scurd to anonymously mock on the internet.
MORT: We’re almost halfway through the OVC schedule and it is time to dust off the obligatory weekly lampoon. Hugs and I enjoyed our column last year, but have yet to muster enough inspiration this season to spend the necessary fifteen minutes to put 350 words to word processor due to the fact that our initial excitement for entering this new conference was whittled away by the drubbing of our first 5 conference opponents by a combined 120 pts. If this conference was a movie, it would have the plot twist of a yawn and the critical acclaim of “Jack and Jill”, which sucked, but was the inspiration for the greatest movie review headline of all time: 0 out of 5 stars, laughingly unfunny. What incredible headline does this conference inspire? “Nobody watched, but no one threw up.”
For the love of Marty Dickens can someone PLEASE turn up the damn speakers in the event center? There are THREE guys sitting at the sound booth. ONE of you needs to find the volume knob and turn it up to awesome. Lipscomb’s system makes my ears bleed, and it is amazing. We are losing to Lipscomb, an inferior school with an inferior team in a barely inferior conference. Then someone needs to tell God or whoever is in charge of the karaoke selection that a.) please no karaoke, and b.) please never play that Turtles song ever again. I get it. It’s a Belmont institution. But it shouldn’t be. I think “neat fact” is as far as that haunting carol should have ever gotten, but someone somewhere in the quality assurance department fell asleep when Karaoke Turtles Song in the Third Quarter Every Game was proposed before the season began.
Also, ByrdCage column DEMAND: Spreadin’ The News with Nick. Every Belmont game, Nick tells us which team he took against the spread and why, complete with his descriptions of his disgust with our opponents’ lack of quality coaching.
HUGS: Listen everyone, I don’t have time for this nonsense; I’m not in grad school anymore. Just kidding. But not really.
In all seriousness though, I do feel a DEEP sense of shame for my lack of commitment to our Bruins in their inaugural year in the OVC. But it looks like they’ve been doing fine without me. Seriously, conference opponents. Get your crap together. The one game I’ve managed to make it to this year was the least compelling sporting contest I’ve ever witnessed, and I’m a Cubs fan. If we are just going to run roughshod over the conference, then I have little motivation to pay close attention. I’ll have to come up with more exciting ways to fill my time, like becoming a hockey fan or watching my 26 year old roommates rediscover Tony Hawk Pro Skater for Playstation.
I am happy for our boys though. It’s not their fault they’re playing the Globetrotters to the OVC’s Generals. Or maybe it is. Maybe they should start shaving some points to make these contests more engaging. It will definitely make Nick’s gambling addiction more exciting.
What does excite me is that if we continue the current pattern, it WILL make for a very interesting Selection Sunday. Until then, wake me up when we go to Murray State. However, I won’t be awake for very long because IMMEDIATELY after the game I will be heading to the Murray fixture and culinary GOLD MINE that is Mary’s to eat an A-Train (steak sandwich between two grilled cheese sandwiches), which will send my organs into the most pleasant meat and cheese-related shutdown imaginable. Stay tuned to Ian Clark being amazing.
Sweet Bruin Baller Tweets:
@2sicksideburns: I made a wish at 11:11 and it came true!! Juwanna Mann is on Comedy Central!!!
I would like to note that this tweet was composed during the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, which also happened to be on Martin Luther King Day. This future schoolteacher chose instead to watch Juwanna Mann. There’s a joke here somewhere.
This confirms all my suspicions. Baker is a 14 year old schoolboy in a schoolteacher’s body.
@DrewHanlen: Just watched Shawshank Redemption w/ my mom. Love that movie! Buddy tunneled his way out of jail w/ a small hammer. Persistence pays off!
Drew, your twitter account is the one of the most consistently inspirational things I regularly read. I admire your upbeat attitude and your ceaseless encouragement. That said, take it down. Just. take it. down. a notch. This is a movie of vicious beatings, corruption, and crawling through poop. It is not an after school special.
When did Hoopin’ become the single greatest person of all time? Seriously, the dude watches Shawshank (the most inspirational movie of all time save Mighty Ducks, D2, and Bridesmaids) WITH HIS MOM. He hangs out with NBA All-Stars and counts “persistence” as a hobby. Rumor is he’s both a knight and a saint. Compared to Drew, Tim Tebow is a drunk-driving prostitute. If you wouldn’t trade lives with this guy, then put me down for an eighth of whatever you are smoking.
…yeah me too.
@Itsburgtime: Drank so much coffee I’d fail a drug test. #BurgyProbz
Remember that one time… ? Roasted.
It was a fantastic night to be one of the handful of Belmont Bruins fans at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, CA on Sunday. As the Cardinal players, coaches, and fans grew subsequently confused, frustrated, and angry when the Bruins refused to relinquish their double-digit advantage through much of middle section of the contest, there was a growing sense among the red and blue faithful that we weren’t just playing the better game—we were the better team. Read the rest of this entry »
Going just 6-23 from the three-point line tonight, Belmont beat Stanford with a gutsy mix of defense and a definite lack of shooting accuracy from The Cardinal.
The Byrd Cage had someone there tonight, and we’ll be posting that exclusive article tomorrow, but here are some clips from the post game interview with Coach Byrd.
Coach Byrd stating the obvious: “We are not nearly as good without Kerron in the game.”
Coach Byrd on Stanford’s run: ”They had momentum and the crowd there towards the end, and we were in foul trouble. To come from that and take control of the game again says a lot about the character, guts, heart- whatever word you want to use. “
And finally, Coach Byrd on this year’s team: “So far they love to play the game. They are there before I get there working and are there when I leave. This team enjoys what they are doing more than any team we’ve had. And that goes a long way.”
Stay tuned for more on a huge win from Belmont…
Belmont faces Lipscomb in their 131st matchup tonight at Allen Arena
If you wasted your time following the latter half of Lipscomb’s Men’s Basketball program last year , you’ll remember the team shamefully spiraling into the abyss despite a fairly promising start. By the time the ASUN Conference Tournament got underway EIGHT PLAYERS had either left the team or had been suspended.
This included the suspension of Lipscomb’s two leading scorers: the country’s leading 3-point shooter (you read that right) Jordan Burgason, (violating school policies), and forward Robert Boyd (deemed academically ineligible). Milos Kleut, Zach Brown, Brett Stall, Stephen Hurt, Damarius Smith, and Marvin Williams also left or were suspended from the team.
A 13 seed- again. How wonderful would it be?
I have made it to every Selection Sunday celebration at Belmont University. The Beaman Student Life Center is packed, shoulder-to-shoulder, camera-to-camera, Sodexho hot dog-to-Sodexho hot dog. Sodexho brings out their semi-best catered food, and news crews crawl around the campus. It is like a second, less sniper-rifled version of the Presidential Town Hall Debates. In fact, CBS will be here according to Belmont’s official basketball website. So, come one, come all Sunday. Festivities start at 4 p.m.
But what would it really mean for Belmont to draw a 13 seed in the NCAA tournament this year? Last year we drew the 13 seed and were up against a Wisconsin team that many eyed to be out in a first-round upset. If my memory serves me correct, Dick Vitale even chose the Bruins in his bracket upset. But it was not in the cards. And as you will read below, Wisconsin and Belmont are in a similar position as last year. Below are the 4-seed possibilities.
The Four Seeds
Maybe teams should be ranked by two of the following stipulations this year: have you played Kentucky? Did you beat Kentucky? Tom Crean’s Hoosiers did actually play Kentucky this year (satisfying the first stipulation), and not only did they play them- they beat them (the second stipulation). No other resume in college basketball boasts this quality win, and Indiana proudly stands at 11 on the RPI. But in their first Big Ten tournament win in years, Hoosiers’ Senior Guard Verdell Jones III crumpled to the floor on an awkward jump stop. The knee injury wasn’t good according to Crean, and the 25 minute, 7.5 points a game senior won’t see the Hoosiers through the tournament because of a torn ACL. But while Jones’ injury is a tough one, freshman Cody Zeller is the story of the year for the Hoosiers. This 6-11 forward posts over 15 a game with 6 boards and ranks 15th in the NCAA in FG% at .629. The freshman is a beast and causes problems for any opponent inside. The third most efficient offensive team in the nation, the Hoosiers combination of size and offense will guarantee a tough matchup for anyone.
With an adjusted tempo of with 58.9, Wisconsin ranks 344th in the NCAA according to Ken Pom in overall pace of the game. Belmont averages 68.4, showing one of the key reasons that Belmont got lost last year when they played Bo Ryan’s Badgers. Wisconsin slows the game tremendously, and for the run and gun type offense of the Bruins, game plans must be changed accordingly. Senior Guard Jordan Taylor averages 14.6 points this year, down from 18 last year. And thankfully Jon Leuer (that guy who put up 22 points against us last year in the tournament) is now with the Milwaukee Bucks. However, getting this Wisconsin team this year will still not be considerably easier. The Badgers are hot, coming off a win against Ohio State and taking down Indiana on Friday, waiting for Michigan State today to prove they are ready for a deep tournament run.
What can you say about the Seminoles? They are 12-4 in the ACC with a record that shows big wins against North Carolina and Duke but some Ivy League losses to Harvard and Princeton. This seems to be the best way to really sum up this team- ”Big wins, strange losses”. Junior guard Michael Snaer puts up a respectable 14 points a game, but the Seminoles turn over the ball a shocking 1 out of every 4 possessions. They rank almost last in this category in the NCAA at 330th. But that is the BAD. The GOOD is their defense. Ranked in the top 20 in nearly every defensive ranking (efficiency, block percentage, etc…), the Seminoles are a team that can go deep or be beat based on the amount of turnovers their offense gives up. The Seminoles face off against the Blue Devils at 2 p.m. in the ACC semifinals.
The Shockers. Wichita State is called the Shockers [insert witty March Madness quote here]. And it is, indeed, shocking to watch Wichita State’s Garrett Stutz go 4-4 from the 3. Yes, from the 3 point line. This doesn’t seem like a crazy stat at first until you realize Stutz is 7 feet tall. He is a mobile 7 footer that made 6 three-pointers in a row between two games. The Shockers out of conference schedule included UNLV, Temple and Alabama and came out of it 1-2 with a 19 point win against UNLV. So what is it about this team that makes them a 4? They rank in the top 10 in offensive efficiency and in the top 20 in defense efficiency. But the Shockers have some shocking (sorry) losses this year, namely Drake and Illinois State. Granted, the Drake loss was in 3 overtimes and Illinois State almost beat Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship game. The Shockers are good all around and Senior Guard Joe Ragland leads the team with 13 points per game. Ranked 5th in the nation in overall experience (2.51 years), the Shockers have the depth, teamwork, and maturity to make a legitimate run in the Madness.
The Dark Horse: Murray State
In what could make an instant rivalry, Belmont could potentially draw future Ohio Valley Conference foe Murray State. This one loss Racer team is lead by one of the best point guards in the country, Isaiah Canaan. The Junior put up nearly 20 points a game this season and currently ranks in the top 20 in the nation in 3P%. He is a beast. But when you start to look deeply at this team, some people don’t think they could hang as a favorable seed. In fact, Ken Pomeroy has the Racers ranked 44th. For some perspective, Belmont is ranked 24th overall in the Ken Pom rankings. The Murray State Racers are the wild card in all the Madness. With three top-50 RPI wins over Southern Mississippi, @ Memphis, and St. Mary’s, you can argue this team either way. In trying to find a weakness for this team, I attempted to simplify things. ”I’ll just crunch some numbers in their loss against TSU,” methinks. ”Limit Canaan. That’s all you have to do.” But it is not that easy. Canaan dropped 31 points against Tennessee State in their only loss of the season.
First year head coach Steve Prohm leads a disciplined team that has done serious damage in their schedule, but has it been enough? While it would infuriate me as a fan to see my team only lose one game and even be questioned as a top seeded team, the national conversation about Murray State has placed them from a 3 seed to a 6 seed. The loss to Tennessee State showed a Racer team that practically gave up in the last two minutes. If you saw the loss, you noticed a frantic, mistake-prone Murray State team that lost its cool under pressure. Who could upset this team?
Belmont. The guard heavy, three-point efficient, experienced, ready-to-win-its-first-NCAA-tournament-game team comes in hungry. What would be better than an instant OVC showdown for the Bruins in the national spotlight? I can’t think of anything.
What do you think?
The 14 seeds have had some success in this tournament they call “The Big Dance”. They have reached the Sweet Sixteen on two occasions. This feat was most recently accomplished by the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, everyone’s second favorite Tennessee basketball program. The 14 seed has won about 14% percent of time, but what if Belmont landed at the 14? Who would they play? Lets take a look..
When you think of the University of Michigan, you think of Rich Rodriguez and the tremendous job he did on the gridiron, right? What you do not think about is John Beilein and the five out motion that he made famous at West Virginia. Beilien’s 2012 Wolverines are an athletic group with a 23-8 record and a 13-5 Big Ten conference record, tied for best in the conference. This team has played the best, and beat the best. The Wolverines have beat nine top 50 RPI teams including wins against Ohio State and in state rival Michigan State. This is a battle tested team that boasts one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Michigan is led by son of Tim Hardaway, Tim Hardaway, Jr. The 6’ 6” sophomore guard has started all 31 games for the Wolverines and is averaging 14.5 points per game. This guard heavy team does not start any player over 6’ 9” and depends on a large percentage of their points to come from behind the arc (37.3 percent, 10th highest in the nation), sound familiar? Michigan is sending one of their best teams in program history to the tourney hoping to erase the memory of… TIMEOUT!! TIMEOUT!! What? No more timeouts?..
Buzz Williams took over this Marquette program from one of this authors most admired coaches, Tom Crean. Buzz has won 94 games since taking over in 2008 and led them to a Sweet Sixteen last season. The Golden Eagles hail from the mighty Big East and has racked up a 14-4 record in conference and 25-6 overall, good for a top ten AP ranking. This team looks good on the floor, do they match up on paper?
The Golden Eagles thrive on forcing turnovers. They are forcing their opponents to turn the ball over on 23.7 percent of possessions while posting one of the nations top steal percentages at 12.5. On offense the Eagles are led by Big East Player of the Year candidate, Jae Crowder and senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom. They have combined to average almost 36 points a game. Marquette is not the most efficient team or the best shooting team in the country. However they are the top scoring offense in the Big East at 76.1 points per game. How is that possible? Thanks for asking. This team plays at a high pace and attacks the rim. They produce 23 percent of their scoring from the foul line. Sounds like a semi-famous Marquette alum who was handed an NBA championship..
Here is another Big East team that has some history with the Belmont Bruins. If you remember, Roy Hibbert and company easily handled a helpless Bruin front line in the first round of the 2007 NCAA tournament. John Thompson the Third’s team this season may not be littered with potential first round draft picks, but talent is never a problem for the Hoyas. They are 22-7 overall are currently sitting at #11 in the AP poll, #13 in the Kenpom ratings.
This version of the Hoyas makes their living on the defensive end of the floor, and not by forcing turnovers. This grind-it-out style of play leads to a slow-paced half court game. They are surrendering only .91 points per possession and forcing opponents to shoot a measly 43.3 percent effective from the field, seventh best in the country. This slowed paced style forces opponents to be brutally efficient. The Hoyas put up these defensive numbers against the 8th most difficult schedule in the country. This does not sound like any fun..
The Baylor Bears do not have a long and storied basketball program and are still trying to recover from the Patrick Dennehy tragedy. Baylor has only made it past the first round of the NCAA tournament once (post 1950). However, this year’s team started out the year winning its first 17 games before losing to Kansas at home. In fact, Baylor dropped both matchups against the Jayhawks as well as both matchups against the Missouri Tigers. This team runs over lesser competition, and has shown struggles with top teams.
Perry Jones is the guy to watch in this one and is a good example of why leaving for the NBA early is a good idea. Yes. NBA. Early. This Baylor team does not lack in athleticism or talent. Perry Jones leads the Baylor in scoring at just over 14 points per game. Jones, along with the rest of the crew, has put together a very efficient and dynamic offense scoring 1.10 points per possession and shooting 53 percent effective from the field. Any team that matches up with Baylor better have some offensive firepower in the bank. Because that Britney Griner is tall…
Belmont struggles playing against length and size, two characteristics that both Baylor and Georgetown possess. Marquette is a team that is able to consistently score around the rim and from the foul line, both high percentage locations. Michigan, on the other hand, depends largely on their outside game to generate offense. Don’t think Kerron Johnson, Ian Clark, and Drew Hanlen would love to face off against a guard heavy team? Think again. Michigan provides Belmont with the best matchups and in my opinion, the best chance for a win.
What team do you want to face?
First, it is imperative that we understand something at this point: a 15 seed would suck. A lot.
Why? In the 15 v 2 game, the 15 seed has only won four times. None of those four teams won a second game. In other words, a 15 seed is a one and done consolation prize for low major conference teams who happened to win their conference tournament.
That’s the primary reason why I personally don’t expect Belmont to be a 15 seed. Even though Belmont earned a 15 seed in their first three tournament appearances, the Bruins have become a well known mid-major staple among those who are “in the know” in college basketball. How ever, in the interest of being thorough, let’s take a brief look at the potential two seeds.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll look at the four projected two seeds according to CBSSports.com: Missouri, Ohio State, Michigan State and Duke.
Missouri is a prolific offensive team. According to StatSheet.com, the Tigers lead the country in points per posession at 1.19. The team is lead by Senior Guard Marcus Denmon who scores 18 points per game on 47% shooting. The Tigers’ Achilles heel is two-fold; first, although the team is 27-4 many of those wins came against far inferior talent and second, Kansas State.
Missouri’s non-conference strength of schedule was 287th – compare that with Belmont’s 66th ranked non-conference strength of schedule. There’s a caveat here: Missouri split the series with Kansas and beat Baylor twice so they can win against superior talent, but the Tigers lost both contests against 21-9 Kansas State. On Feb 21st, the Wildcats went in to Columbia, MO and beat the Tigers on their home court by ten. Aside from these two shortfalls, Missouri could be a one seed and with a Big 12 tournament win, may still earn a one seed. Missouri will go far in the tournament no matter where they are seeded.
Don’t be fooled by Ohio State’s #10 AP ranking, Jared Sullinger and his band of Nuts are good enough to win a national championship – Ken Pomeroy has them at #2. What the Buckeyes lack in flashy stats they make up for in defensive efficiency. They’re one of the best in the nation at limiting their opponents’ chances. Ohio State ranks second in the nation in defensive rebound percentage and first in the nation in opponents’ points per possession.
With a win in yesterday East Lansing over Big Ten front-runner Michigan State, the Buckeyes may have snuck into a one seed for the Big Ten Tournament, but the two teams remain in a three way tie with Michigan. Ohio State does not lack strength of schedule – they’ve played the 14th toughest schedule this year. The Buckeyes’ sole “bad” loss came to Illinois. If Belmont draws Ohio State, we’ll need Scott Saunders, Mick Hedgepeth, Boomer Herndon and Adam Mark on the floor to cover Jared Sullinger.
Who had the toughest schedule in college basketball this season? Michigan State. It’s not only because the Big 10 has been good this year, the Spartans’ non-conference strength of schedule ranks 15th in the country. Michigan State is led by Draymond Green, a Senior Forward who averages 16 points and 10 rebounds per game, leading the team in both categories.
Michigan State ranks in the Top 10 nationally in only one statistical category: rebound percentage. However, the Spartans are ranked third in the country according to Ken Pomeroy and third in the Massey College Basketball Ranking Comparison. Draymond Green is the heart and soul of this team. For my money, they are the most susceptible to upset of the potential two seeds. If a team develops a scheme to keep the ball out of Green’s hands and force the Spartans to win another way they can be defeated. That, however, will not be an easy task in any round of the tournament. This is another Tom Izzo team that isn’t flashy but manages to win games.
If you think it’s a coincidence that I saved the Blue Devils for last, you’re wrong. I would pay money for Belmont to draw Duke again. Unfortunately, I bet Coach K would pay ten times my wager to avoid Belmont. The Bruins and Blue Devils have faced each other only twice. Duke has claimed both contests but only by a combined two points.
Duke is a big question mark this year for many in the college basketball world. Duke suffered through the 2nd most difficult schedule this year and dropped only five games – only one of those to a sub-50 RPI team (Miami’s RPI was 51). Yet, even with wins over Kansas, UNC, Michigan State, and Michigan the onlookers want more.
Duke always has a chance to win the ACC and that’s what it will take to move the Blue Devils from a two seed to a one seed. This Duke team is like all Duke teams. They’re balanced on offense and they play defense when they feel like it. Duke ranks 62nd nationally in rebounds per game – an area of their game I’m sure Coach Krzyzewski will be working on in the wake of 18 point blowout at home at the hands of Tobacco Road rival UNC; a game in which Duke was out-rebounded 42 to 22.
I’d give anything to watch Belmont take on Duke again. At the same time I hope they don’t. Duke will be a one or a two seed and I do not want Belmont to be a 15 seed.
At the end of the day I don’t want Belmont to play any of these teams. Not because I don’t think Belmont could win, but because these are all teams who believe they have a chance at a national championship and with that in mind, won’t overlook a team like Belmont early in the tournament.
No matter what team lines up against the Bruins in a few weeks, they’ll be wise to prepare heavily. Already comparisons are being drawn to last year’s Belmont team, but the two could not be more different.
I can’t wait for Selection Sunday which, in my opinion, is the single greatest day in all of collegiate sport.
The above picture is of Belmont Head Coach Rick Byrd. He is smiling because not only is he taking the Belmont Bruins to their fifth NCAA Tournament berth since 2006, but because he has his Bruins on a red-hot 14 game winning streak heading into the Big Dance.
A Look Back At The Season
Belmont almost did what the Byrd Cage predicted back in its first post in November against Duke at their home opener in Cameron indoors. The Crazies were almost left silent by Coach Byrd’s disciplined team that didn’t get its head down all game, and came back from a significant deficit in what is, arguably, the hardest place in college athletics to sustain confidence and control the game. The game was ultimately lost by one point, and everyone pointed to the Bruins as being “for real” and all those sports qualities that the talking heads give sports teams they ultimately do not know anything about. But the Bruins had their chance to prove themselves four days later in Memphis, only to lose by 16 points.
Still waiting for that “signature” win, the Bruin faithful kept in good spirits heading into conference play, and looking to get some quality wins from non-conference opponents on the national level. Playing at MTSU twice, the Bruins played a Blue Raider team that looked to be the best in their history, and split the series 1-1. After a quality handling of future OVC foe Tennessee State University, the Bruins arrived at Miami of Ohio on December 17 with a record of 10-3, the respectable losses to Duke, Memphis, and MTSU in Murfreesboro. The team had confidence, their fans expecting another 30 win season, and their opponents largely expecting a whole heck of a lot from every match-up.
But it wasn’t as easy as everyone thought, and the magic season started to get a little messy. Belmont dropped two in a row at Miami of Ohio and Marshall. The Bruins limped back to Clarksville with a win against struggling future OVC opponent Austin Peay on December 21st and had Christmas to think about what they did. Who were the Bruins? What happened to that 30 win season we were all expecting? A few more wins got the Bruins back in the flow— moving to squash their rival in the the Battle of the Boulevard, a sold-out rivalry game to a struggling Lipscomb team. But the Bisons had different ideas and had 6 of their players were in double-digits, giving the Bruins a thorough wake-up call after a beating 85-74.
It was time to get worried. Dropping another game to USC Upstate, the Bruins nursed a 13-7 overall record toward the end of January. There was a major flaw somewhere in all this basketball, and if anyone could change things around and get this team playing to its full potential, it was Coach Byrd. On January 23, 2012, Coach Byrd made a decision that would change the season for the Bruins. Starting Blake Jenkins against ETSU that night to defend 6-6 senior guard Adam Sollazzo, the Bruins had a new life injected into the team. Winning 14 straight, it is hard to over emphasize the way the team has responded to the injection of Jenkins’ play (You can read our breakdown on “The Blake Jenkins Effect” here).
A lot has happened since ETSU that January night for Belmont. The Bruins are now ranked in the top offensively in the nation, Ken Pomeroy has Belmont ranked 25th overall, and Mid-Major Top 25 has Belmont ranked 15th. The Bruins go into the Madness with one of the top winning streaks in the NCAA and have an awful lot of coaches hoping the Selection Committee doesn’t choose that music school from Nashville come Sunday.
Belmont received the highest seed in their history last year at 13, and faced a number 4 Wisconsin team that many members of the sports media picked to be upset by the 30-4 Bruins. But the Badgers were too much under the basket for the Bruins, and our 3-point shooting just wasn’t working. The Bruins’ tournament dreams were crushed under a score of 72-58. Badger Coach Bo Ryan’s mixture of stalwart big men and tempo change, moved the game from Belmont’s usual high level of possessions to a creeping slow pace.
What seed will Belmont receive this year? That is a story that will have to wait for Sunday to break, but we can speculate. Many of the “experts” have Belmont at a 14 seed this year. As of right now, CBS has us playing number 3 seed Michigan at the Columbus, Ohio tournament site. Other 3 seeds are Baylor, Georgetown, and Marquette.
The Byrd Cage will have you covered on all previews as the week progresses. Be sure to follow us on twitter via @BelmontByrdCage and “Like” us on Facebook for all your Belmont basketball needs.
As Ian Clark iced his ankle at the end of the bench, Adam Barnes took the floor with the rest of the usual starters; Johnson, Hedgepeth, Hanlen, and Jenkins.
With Kerron’s back spasms worrying Bruin fans and Jenkins’ sitting out last game as well, a very unsettling feeling made its way over me before the game started.
But it seemed to be business as usual for the Bruins. Up by 15 at one point, the lead felt like it would get away from Jacksonville, but the Dolphins kept battling the Ian Clark-less Bruins. Shooting 35% from the 3, the Bruins delivered a nail-biting game in the last 10 minutes. Cutting the lead to just 7 with five minutes left, the Dolphins proved they would not go away, but Kerron’s clutch three-point basket at 4:21 started to squelch the momentum. Johnson ultimately showered 19 points against the tricky Jacksonville defense as Belmont got its win, 76-62.
But the game just looked sloppy overall to the avid Bruin fan. The score simply did not equal the true feel of the game. While only 10 turnovers were committed by Belmont, the sloppiness came in the stat-line of 23-58 from the field. Thankfully, our consistency came from the foul line. The Bruins got there 31 times and made 24. Scott Saunders scored 8 of his 18 points from that line and we doubled their offensive rebounds.
After the game, Associate Head Coach Brian Ayers spoke with Kevin Ingram from the Bruin Sports Network, “We did enough to win. The bad turnovers and decision making is something we have to correct if we want to win on Saturday.” He also spoke about the multiple defenses Johnson faced throughout the game. ”You have got to give Jacksonville a lot of credit. They mixed their defenses up. Triangle 2, zone, man- but with a guy like Kerron who can beat his man, it was good to get him back in there. But it was tough without Ian. “
Kerron also talked about his clutch three-pointer at the end of the game. ”Alot of my shots had been going in and out, but teamates kept saying keep trying… and I stepped up and made a shot when I had to.” He also spoke about Ian Clark’s absence. ”Everybody knew we had to step up our game… it was a big loss for us. We are hoping he gets better.”
Belmont will play University of North Florida or East Tennessee State University on Friday. Tip-off will be at 6 ET.