Introducing Cinderella: Meet the Belmont Bruins
Video credit: Scott Anderson
Conference: Ohio Valley
Coach: Rick Byrd
Record: 22-10, 11-5 OVC
Rankings and ratings:
- Kenpom: 148
- RPI: 120, per NCAA’s official numbers
- AP/USA Today: Not ranked
Names you need to know: Craig Bradshaw (17.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.2 apg), Evan Bradds (14.1, 7.1), Taylor Barnette (10.8, 2.6)
Stats you need to know: The Bruins are one of the best shooting teams in the country. They rank ninth in effective field goal percentage (56.3%), sixth in two-point field goal percentage (55.9%) and 47th in three-point percentage (38.1%). Belmont scores 40 percent of its points by way of the three-pointer, and they enter the tournament averaging a little more than 74 points per game.
Tendencies: This is a team that leans on the three-point shot, as noted above. Nearly half of their field goal attempts on the season have been three-pointers, and this isn’t a group that scores a whole lot from the foul line either. They’ll show both man and zone looks defensively, and the Bruins essentially have an eight-man rotation.
Big wins, bad losses: Their best win of the season was also their biggest, as the Bruins beat No. 25 Murray State in the OVC title game. Outside of that, Belmont’s best win was a one-point triumph over Western Kentucky in late-November. As for losses that won’t help their profile, Belmont lost to Wright State in non-conference play and suffered league defeats at the hands of Eastern Illinois and Jacksonville State.
How’d they get here: After rolling past Eastern Illinois in the quarterfinals of the OVC tournament, Belmont won two thrilling games to grab the automatic bid. Two Bradds free throws gave Belmont a 53-52 win over Eastern Kentucky in the semifinals, and Barnette’s three-pointer with 3.2 seconds remaining was the difference in their 88-87 win over Murray State.
Outlook: Given their reliance on the three-point shot Belmont could be dangerous. But this is a team that’s had its fair share of issues defensively, and opponents are shooting nearly 51 percent inside of the arc. Against a team with bigger players who can find quality interior looks, Belmont may be in some trouble.
How do I know you?: The Bruins were a staple in the NCAA tournament as a member of the Atlantic Sun, making five appearances between 2006 and 2012. This is Belmont’s second NCAA berth in three seasons as a member of the OVC, and they lost to Arizona in the Round of 64 in 2013. Barnette began his college career at Virginia, and Belmont’s most famous fan is country musician Vince Gill, who’s a close friend of head coach Rick Byrd.