Belmont Bruins

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Head coach Rick Byrd of the Belmont Bruins reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Video: Belmont claims another late victory vs. Lipscomb

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History repeating itself led to another heartbreak for Lipscomb.

For the second time in a week, the Bisons fell to Belmont in the final seconds in their Battle of the Boulevard matchups. This time it was a Taylor Barnette 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining in overtime that gave the Bruins the win over Lipscomb, their 11th-straight over their intra-Nashville rivals, by the score of 78-76.

Last week at home, the Bruins erased an 18-point second-half deficit on Dylan Windler’s layup with under a second remaining to best Lipscomb.

In between to those two bad beats to Belmont, Lipscomb also managed to fit in a 72-71 loss to Tennessee State that came courtesy of a Tigers jumper with nine seconds left. Here’s guessing the 104-85 win over Tennessee Tech the Bisons also snuck in that week isn’t enough salve for those wounds.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Top-ranked Wildcats visit UCLA

Tyler Ulis, Parker Ernsthausen
Associated Press
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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 1 Kentucky at UCLA, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)

The Wildcats and Bruins meet at Pauley Pavilion, and hopefully this game is more competitive than last season’s matchup in Chicago. Kentucky dominated from start to finish, posting a halftime score more fitting of a college football “buy” game than a college basketball game between two of the sport’s storied programs (41-7). Many of the faces have changed for John Calipari’s team but the results remain the same to this point, although it remains to be seen how healthy sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis is (hyperextended right elbow). That, along with UCLA’s front court tandem of Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh, will be keys to keep an eye on tonight.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Belmont at Valparaiso, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top mid-major programs will meet in Valparaiso, with the Crusaders hosting the Bruins in a matchup of the preseason favorites in the OVC (Belmont) and Horizon League (Valparaiso). Bryce Drew’s Crusaders have been stingy defensively with senior Vashil Fernandez serving as the anchor, and they’ve got a number of scoring options including forward Alec Peters. That defense will need to be at its best to slow down Rick Bryd’s team, which features guard Craig Bradshaw and forward Evan Bradds.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1. No. 6 Oklahoma is the only other ranked team in action tonight, with the Sooners hosting Central Arkansas (8:00 p.m., ESPNU). The perimeter triumvirate of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard have played well thus far, as has senior forward Ryan Spangler. If anything, this game should give front court players such as Akolda Manyang, Jamuni McNeace and Khadeem Lattin added reps with the struggling Bears arriving in Norman with a 1-5 record.

2. USF, which has won two of its last three games after starting the season 0-4 (the lone loss to Kentucky, so no shame there), hits the road to take on Delaware. This is an important game for Orlando Antigua’s team, as their next two contests are against South Carolina and NC State. If the Bulls are to have any shot at leaving Newark with a win, they’ll need to slow down a balanced offensive attack that boasts five players averaging between 8.3 and 13.5 points per game led by forward Cazmon Haynes (13.5, 7.0 rpg).

3. UT-Arlington, which already has wins over Ohio State and Memphis to its credit and lost at Texas in overtime earlier this week, hosts North Texas in a game they should take care of. Scott Cross’s Mavericks haven’t been great when it comes to shooting the ball but they’re one of the nation’s best on the offensive glass, as they’ve rebounded 42.5 percent of their missed shots (fifth nationally). Leading the way has been forward Kevin Hervey, who’s averaging 17.3 points and ten rebounds per game.

4. Colorado State, which has won five of its first six games, hosts a tested Long Beach State team in what should be an entertaining contest. And if you like transfers this game’s loaded with them, with Nick Faust (Maryland) leading the way for the 49ers and junior college transfer Emmanuel Omogbo being one of five averaging double figures for Colorado State while also leading the team in rebounding (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg). CSU’s Gian Clavell has been one of the Mountain West’s most improved players thus far, averaging 21.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

5. USC will look to rebound from their 1-2 weekend in Orlando by winning at UCSB. The Gauchos are led by senior guard Michael Bryson, who accounted for 23 points, five rebounds and six assists in a two-point loss at Arizona State over the weekend. He’s joined in the backcourt by John Green, who will look to bounce back from a 2-for-12 outing against the Sun Devils. USC doesn’t lack for talent on the perimeter either with Jordan McLaughlin leading the way, and forwards Nikola Jovanovic and Bennie Boatwright can score as well.

6. Louisiana and ULM meet in the Sun Belt opener for both, with the Ragin’ Cajuns pegged as the preseason favorites to win the league. Shawn Long will lead the way for the Ragin’ Cajuns, with ULM countering with its own 6-foot-10 senior big man in Majok Deng. These are two of the top offensive teams in the Sun Belt, with the Ragin’ Cajuns shooting a league-best 51.3 percent from the field and the Warhawks third in the conference at 45.5 percent. But ULM has been the better defensive team thus far, which should make for an interesting matchup.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • UMass-Lowell at LIU Brooklyn, 7:00 p.m.
  • Central Michigan at Grand Canyon, 9:00 p.m.
  • IPFW at Cal Poly, 10:00 p.m.

Mid-majors capable of wrecking some brackets

Jerod Haase
Associated Press
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It never fails.

Every March some plucky underdog seemingly comes out of nowhere to pull off an upset in the NCAA tournament, wrecking brackets across the country in the process. The key word in that sentence is “seemingly,” because each year there are teams that show signs throughout the season that they’re capable of winning once in the NCAA tournament.

Below are ten programs capable of pulling off an upset in the NCAA tournament as we approach the start of the 2015-16 campaign.

1. UAB: Jerod Haase’s Blazers pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2015 NCAA tournament, as they sent home three-seed and trendy Final Four pick Iowa State in the round of 64. All five starters from that team have returned, including two players in forward William Lee and guard Nick Norton who ranked among the top freshmen in Conference USA a season ago and conference tournament MVP Robert Brown. Reigning C-USA Sixth Man of the Year Chris Cokley anchors a deep and experienced bench. And with Brown being the Blazers’ lone senior, they could be at the top of this list in 2016-17 as well.

2. Valparaiso: The Crusaders narrowly missed out on an upset back in March, falling by just three points to four-seed Maryland. Vashil Fernandez receiving his fourth season of eligibility means that head coach Bryce Drew can call upon one of the top front court tandems around, pairing Fernandez with junior Alec Peters. Peters was a first team all-Horizon League selection last season, with Fernandez being the Defensive Player of the Year. In total ten of the eleven players who scored a point for Valparaiso last season are back, with guards Tevonn Walker and Darien Walker and wing E. Victor Nickerson among those contributors.

3. Stephen F. Austin: Brad Underwood’s first two seasons at SFA have produced consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, and the Lumberjacks have enough experience and talent to push that streak to three. Five seniors led by reigning Southland Conference Player of the Year Thomas Walkup have seen a lot in their college careers, including a wild win over VCU in the 2014 NCAA tournament. A group that was good on both ends of the floor (they ranked fifth in defensive turnover percentage, too) and won 29 of their final 30 games a season ago should pick up right where they left off in March.

4. Belmont: Like the three teams ahead of them on this list Rick Byrd’s Bruins reached the NCAA tournament a season ago, where they ran into a tough matchup in Virginia’s pack line defense. However it should be noted that Belmont scored 67 points in that loss, a mark met or surpassed by Virginia opponents just four times in 2014-15. Four starters from that team are back in Nashville, led by the OVC’s best player in senior guard Craig Bradshaw and the nation’s field goal percentage champion Evan Bradds (68.8 percent). The Bruins are highly efficient offensively, and that could make life difficult for an opponent unfamiliar with their style/personnel.

5. Old Dominion: Jeff Jones’ Monarchs fell short of their goal of an NCAA tournament bid a season ago, but they didn’t sulk once in the Postseason NIT. Trey Freeman and company reached the semifinals of that event, and the postseason experience should serve this group well. Freeman’s one of the best players in Conference USA, and in total ODU welcomes back three starters and four of their top six scorers. East Carolina transfer Brandan Stith pairs up with leading rebounder Denzell Taylor to help ODU account for the loss of Jonathan Arledge and Richard Ross from their front court, and this is a group that can be dangerous in a one-and-done scenario.

AP Photo
Old Dominion’s Trey Freeman (AP Photo)

6. UC Irvine: The prohibitive favorites in the Big West, Russell Turner’s Anteaters had eventual Elite Eight participant Louisville on the ropes back in March. UC Irvine fell by just two points on that day, and many of the key contributors from that team have returned for another run at the NCAA tournament. That includes experienced guards Alex Young and Luke Nelson, wing Dominque Dunning and a front court with some serious size led by 7-foot-6 junior Mamadou Ndiaye. While UC Irvine isn’t an explosive offensive team, their defense is what makes them such a tough matchup for team not used to their style and personnel.

7. Iona: There’s no denying the fact that Tim Cluess’ Gaels are going to score points. Last season Iona averaged 79.5 points per game, and from an adjusted tempo standpoint only 11 teams played faster. Iona does have to account for the loss of MAAC Player of the Year David Laury, but four of the team’s top five scorers from a season ago are back led by high-scoring guards A.J. English and Shadrac Casimir. The key for Iona, especially in the MAAC tournament where they’ve fallen to rival Manhattan in each of the last two title games, will be their commitment on the defensive end. As we saw with Eastern Washington in March, being able to score doesn’t mean much if you can’t get stops.

8. Evansville: The Purple Aces have one of the better inside/out combinations around in high-scoring guard D.J. Balentine and forward/center Egidijus Mockevicius, who combined to average 32.6 points per game in 2014-15. That tandem helped lead Marty Simmons’ team to the CIT championship, and with all five starters back expectations are high for the Purple Aces. They’re in position to challenge preseason Missouri Valley favorite Wichita State, and given their talent and experience should Evansville reach the NCAA tournament they can cause trouble.

9. Central Michigan: Keno Davis’ Chippewas won 23 games and a MAC West Division title last season with an offense that shot the ball well and took good care of it too. All five starters, led by guard Chris Fowler and forward John Simons, are back on campus which should allow them to hit the ground running in 2015-16. The key for this group will be to get better on the defensive end of the floor (MAC foes shot nearly 54 percent from two), as they ranked 11th in field goal percentage defense, seventh in three-point percentage defense and ninth in effective field goal percentage defense (conference games only).

10. Louisiana: The biggest reason for the Ragin’ Cajuns’ inclusion on this list is the fact that they’ve got a likely pro in Shawn Long in their front court. The 6-foot-11 senior is the preseason pick for Sun Belt Player of the Year, coming off of a junior campaign in which he averaged 16.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. All five starters are back for head coach Bob Marlin, and while the Ragin’ Cajuns didn’t reach the NCAA tournament they did play in the CIT (losing to Evansville in the quarters) so there is some postseason experience to call upon.

Five others to keep in mind: Hofstra, Columbia, North Florida, Stony Brook, Pepperdine

Ohio Valley Conference Preview: Belmont reigns supreme

Craig Bradshaw (AP Photo)
AP
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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Ohio Valley Conference.

The Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship game didn’t lack any drama. Taylor Barnette drilled a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left to send the Belmont to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years. It handed Murray State, which was undefeated in conference play, an invitation to the NIT.

The Bruins and Racers are expected to top their respective divisions again this season despite going through two very different offseasons.

Belmont head coach Rick Byrd, entering his 30th season, brings back four starters. Barnette, the OVC Tournament MVP and Craig Bradshaw, the Ohio Valley Preseason Player of the Year, make up the conference’s top back court, while Evan Bradds mans the frontline after a breakout sophomore season. Belmont is one of the nation’s best mid-major programs year-after-year, and that shouldn’t change this season.

Murray State, however, experienced an offseason of change. In April, Cameron Payne left for the NBA, becoming a lottery pick that will continue his career alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Then in June, head coach Steve Prohm left to take over the Iowa State program. Despite the coaching change and the loss of three of its top four scorers, Murray State remains a contender in the OVC. First-year head coach Matt McMahon has an all-OVC caliber guard in Jeffery Moss, the lone returning starter. Justin Seymour also returns, but the perimeter will be enhanced by the additions of Texas transfer Damarcus Croaker, Chattanooga transfer Gee McGhee and JuCo transfer Bryce Jones. 

In total, there are four new head coaches in the league: McMahon, Dan McHale (Eastern Kentucky), Rick Ray (Southeast Missouri State) and Jon Harris (SIU-Edwardsville). 

Even after graduating two all-OVC players, McHale and the Colonels could still be Belmont’s toughest challenge in the East Division, relying on the returning back court of Ja’Mill Powell and Isaac McGlone. Morehead State won five of its last six games, narrowly losing to Murray State in the OVC Tournament semifinals, to close out 2014-15. The Eagles could build of last season’s strong push with Brent Arrington returning to lead the team’s hard-nose defense. But Jacksonville State poses as a deep sleeper, a cast of newcomers headlined by well-traveled forward Cameron Biedscheid.

UT Martin, coming off one of the better turnarounds in the nation a season ago, will likely be Murray State’s toughest competition in the West Division. Twymond Howard and Alex Anderson make up a solid 1-2 punch, while Myles Taylor, another double-digit scorer, returns from a shortened 2014-15 season. Chris Olivier transferring hurts Eastern Illinois up front, but Trae Anderson and Cornell Johnston should be enough to keep the Panthers in play this year.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE

  • Favorite: “I think Belmont is the best team. They won the conference tournament last year. They have bulk of the guys coming back and they definitely have the best coach coming back.”
  • Sleeper: “I would say Morehead State. I think they’re going to have a really good team. They play hard, they play physical, they guard you. You really have to prepare for them. Heck, they were close to making the conference championship game last year.”
  • Star to watch: “I think Craig Bradshaw from Belmont. He can score from anywhere on the floor. He plays with a great motor and within the team concept. He can put points on the board, really quickly too.”

PRESEASON OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Craig Bradshaw, Belmont

One of the best mid-major players in the nation, Bradshaw is coming off a junior campaign of 18.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, shooting 42 percent from behind the 3-point line. An intense competitor, the 6-foot-3 senior had arguably his best game against one of the nation’s premier defenses, scoring 25 points (10-of-19 shooting) and nine rebounds against Virginia in the NCAA tournament.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE TEAM:

  • Evan Bradds, Belmont: The anchor in the middle for the Bruins, the 6-foot-7 junior averaged 14.2 points and 7.2 boards per game, shooting 69 percent from the field, second in the nation in that category.
  • Chris Horton, Austin Peay: One of the bright lights for the Governors in 2014-15, Horton averaged a double-double: 13.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Tops in the conference with 2.3 blocks per game.
  • Twymond Howard, UT Martin: One of the top newcomers in the league from a season ago, the 6-foot-6 forward recorded five of his six double-doubles during conference play.
  • Jeffery Moss, Murray State: A long, athletic guard who can connect from three should see a bump in his offensive numbers with Cameron Payne in the NBA and two of the Racers’ other double-digit scorers gone from a season ago.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @OVCBall

PREDICTED FINISH

East Division

1. Belmont
2. Morehead State
3. Eastern Kentucky
4. Jacksonville State
5. Tennessee Tech
6. Tennessee State

West Division

1. Murray State
2. UT Martin
3. Eastern Illinois
4. Southeast Missouri State
5. Austin Peay
6. SIU-Edwardsville

Legends Classic regional round matchups released

Mark Gottfried
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While the four teams selected to play in this upcoming season’s Legends Classic semifinals at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (Arizona State, LSU, Marquette and NC State) have been known for quite some time, the regional round matchups for the event had yet to be announced. That changed Thursday, as the Gazelle Group released the matchups for those games.

Each of the four teams that will make their way to Brooklyn for games November 23-24 will have two home games to play in the regional round. Those opponents will come from a four-team pool of Belmont, IUPUI, Kennesaw State and South Alabama, with those teams being selected well in advance of today’s announcement.

There will be a separate four-team event hosted by Kennesaw State November 23-24, and as is the case with the semifinal round in Brooklyn those games will be announced at a later date. Below are the regional round matchups.

Milwaukee Regional (hosted by Marquette)
November 13: Belmont at Marquette
November 16: IUPUI at Marquette

Raleigh Regional (hosted by NC State) 
November 15: South Alabama at NC State
November 18: IUPUI at NC State

Baton Rouge Regional (hosted by LSU) 
November 16: Kennesaw State at LSU
November 19: South Alabama at LSU

Tempe Regional (hosted by Arizona State) 
November 16: Belmont at Arizona State
November 19: Kennesaw State at Arizona State

NCAA tournament participants Belmont, LSU and NC State part of Legends Classic field

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Wednesday afternoon the Gazelle Group announced that the field for the 2015 Legends Classic has been filled. The four teams that will automatically “advance” to the semifinal round at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn November 23 and 24 were known, with those teams being Arizona State, LSU, Marquette and NC State.

Wednesday’s announcement included the four teams that will play in the regional round were finalized as well.

Belmont, IUPUI, Kennesaw State and South Alabama are those four teams, and each of the four automatic semifinalists will play two games against those schools before heading to Brooklyn. Kennesaw State will host the subregional rounds between these four teams November 23 and 24.

Of the eight teams in the field three reached the NCAA tournament last month, with NC State beating LSU in the Round of 64 on their way to the Sweet 16 and Belmont losing to No. 2 Virginia in the Round of 64.

NC State returns a number of key players from that Sweet 16 team, including point guard Cat Barber, and while LSU lost starting forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey to the NBA they add a highly-regarded recruiting class led by Ben Simmons. Arizona State returns an experienced team in the first season of the Bobby Hurley era in Tempe, and Marquette adds one of the nation’s best recruiting classes led by five-star forward Henry Ellenson.

Matchups for all three rounds of the event will be announced at a later date.