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NCAA Tournament Cheat Sheets: Get to know Belmont

ASun Florida Gulf Coast Belmont Basketball

Belmont head coach Rick Byrd embraces his players after their 83-69 victory over Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, March 3, 2012, in Macon, Ga. Belmont won 83-69. (AP Photo/Jason Vorhees)


Read through the rest of the NCAA Tournament Cheat Sheets here.

Conference: Atlantic Sun

Coach: Rick Byrd

Record: 27-7, 16-2 (1st)

Rankings and Ratings:

- Kenpom: 25
- RPI: 65
- AP/USA Today: Unranked

Seeding?: The Bruins have a solid RPI and a couple of decent wins over the likes of Marshall and Middle Tennessee State. They are probably looking at a 14 or a 15 seed when the bracket is released.

Names you need to know: Kerron Johnson (14.2 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.5 spg), Ian Clark (12.6 ppg), Drew Haneln (11.0 ppg, 3.9 apg, 48.6% 3PT)

Stats you need to know: Belmont has the second most efficient offense in the country behind Missouri, scoring 1.117 PPP. Even after that stat is adjusted for the schedule they played, Kenpom has them as the ninth most efficient team on the offensive end of the floor. Why? Because they can shoot. Belmont if fifth in the country in effective field goal percentage while shooting 38.1% from three, 33rd best nationally.

Tendencies: The biggest difference between this year’s Belmont team and last year’s is that the Bruins aren’t forcing turnovers at the same rate. Last season, they were second in the country in defensive turnover rate. This year they are in the middle of the pack. But that hasn’t changed how they play. The Bruins still press and they still like to get up and down the floor. They are a fun team to watch because they have a talented back court and get up plenty of threes.

Big wins, bad losses: Their two best wins came over Marshall and Middle Tennessee State. Their worst loss of the season was to Lipscomb, but that is a rivalry that is as heated as any in the country.

How’d they get here?: The Bruins were the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Sun Tournament and cruised to a 14 point win over Florida-Gulf Coast in the title game after trailing by as much as 11 in the first half.

Outlook: Last season, the Bruins were the trendy pick to land an upset in the first round of the Big Dance. That probably won’t be the case this season as Rick Byrd’s club struggled (relatively speaking) earlier in the year. Belmont is probably playing their best basketball of the season right now, having won 14 straight games and winning their conference regular season title by three games. I’ll give this group a puncher’s chance to land a major first round upset. They have high-major size in the middle in Scott Saunders and Mick Hedgepeth and with the way they can shoot the ball from the perimeter, if they get the right matchup on the right night, watch out. Remember, this is the same team that lost to Duke by one point in Durham.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.