Rick Byrd

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Introducing Cinderella: Meet the Belmont Bruins

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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

Seeding: 15

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.

Like Postseason NIT, CBI to feature 30-second shot clock

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Earlier this month the NCAA announced that the Postseason NIT would be used to evaluate a couple rules changes, with the block/charge arc in the paint being increased to four feet from the current measurement of three feet and the shot clock being lowered to 30 seconds being the two alterations. Wednesday afternoon the CBI, another postseason event, announced that it will also use the 30-second shot clock.

According to the CBI, the data gathered will be sent to the Division I men’s basketball rules committee. The committee, which is chaired by Belmont head coach Rick Byrd, will use the data to see whether or not a lower shot clock impacts scoring and pace of play.

“The NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee is very appreciative that the College Basketball Invitational has chosen to experiment with the 30-second shot clock this March,” Byrd said in the release. “The additional data we will receive from these games will be very meaningful to us as we meet this coming May.”

At this point in the season possessions are averaging just over 18 seconds, per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Will that average change in postseason play? And how will that translate to the regular season should the rules committee shorten the shot clock? Those are questions they’ll look to answer in May, and more data can’t hurt in that regard.

NCAA announces that experimental rules will be used during Postseason NIT

Rick Byrd

With scoring in college basketball continuing to decrease, many have openly called for the NCAA and its rules makers to come up with solutions that will (hopefully) result in more possessions and more points being scored. One possible solution that has been suggested in the past is to decrease the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, which is what’s used in women’s college basketball.

Friday the NCAA announced that two experimental rules will be used during this year’s Postseason NIT, with the shot clock change being one of them. Also of note is the decision to move the restricted area arc under the basket out by a foot (four feet as opposed to three), with the going being to determine whether or not the number of collisions (block/charge situations) around the basket decrease as a result.

Making these moves in March will give the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee the opportunity to further evaluate these possible changes in game situations before making a decision as to whether or not changing these rules would improve the on-court product.

“The committee discussed both of these potential rule changes during its May 2014 meeting, knowing that the May 2015 meeting would be the committee’s next opportunity to make a change to either of these rules,” Belmont head coach Rick Byrd, who is chair of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee, said in the release.

“Although the committee will discuss a number of potential rules changes at the meeting, having specific data on these two rules should help the committee make a decision about whether such potential rule changes might further improve the flow and competitiveness of college basketball,” Byrd said.

In the past conferences have allowed their members to experiment with potential rules changes, with multiple leagues using a 30-second shot clock in exhibition games this season. But there is a difference between exhibitions (or the occasional in-season tournament, as has been the case in the past) and games that truly have an impact, so maybe using the NIT will help the committee come to a final decision on the shot clock and restricted area arc.

Belmont’s Rick Byrd wins No. 700, Northwestern State’s Mike McConathy wins No. 600

Belmont v Kansas
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While college basketball fans are watching for Coach K closing in on 1,000 career wins this week, a few respected Division I head coaches hit milestone coaching win totals with wins on Saturday.

Belmont head coach Rick Byrd won for the 700th time in the Bruins’ win over Austin Peay. Byrd has made the NCAA Tournament six times at the school and has 608 of his wins at Belmont.

Northwestern State head coach Mike McConathy took his 600th victory in the Demons’ win over Lamar. McConathy has been at Northwestern State for 16 seasons and been to the NCAA Tournament three times, most notably in 2006 when his No. 14-seeded Demons took down Iowa for the big first-round upset.

2014-2015 Season Preview: Murray State, Belmont, Morehead State headline Ohio Valley

Barclays Center Classic - Morehead State Eagles v LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds
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Murray States Cameron Payne (AP Photo)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

The Ohio Valley is one of the few conferences that is still broken up into divisions, and the most interesting of the two divisional races this season will be in the east.

Belmont has been one of the best mid-major programs in the country under head coach Rick Byrd. In the last nine years, the Bruins have won seven regular season titles and six conference tournament titles despite playing in two different leagues. Byrd has done it by building a program that slowly-but-surely develops the guys on the team into stars at this level, which is why he should feel complete confidence in Craig Bradshaw filling in for J.J. Mann.

Belmont guard Craig Bradshaw (Getty Images)

Belmont’s issue will be in the front court, where they have to replace both starters — as well as “Big Chad” Lang — which is part of the reason why I think that Morehead State will win the East Division. Sean Woods returns four starters from last year’s 20-win team, including his entire back court. It’s headlined by Angelo Warner, a 6-foot-2 senior that averaged 17.5 points a season ago, numbers that could bump up this season if he shoots better than 32.6% from three. With a handful of Division I transfers and a number of JuCo imports joining the ranks this season, Woods will have the depth, particularly in his back court, to make Morehead’s full-court press quite lethal.

While those two programs battle it out supremacy in the East, Murray State looks like they are clearly the team to beat in the West. It starts with Cam Payne, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who came out of nowhere to become one of the best freshman in the country (more on him in a bit). He’s not alone, however, as Steve Prohm returns four starters, including workhorse forward Jarvis Williams, Jeffery Moss and Clemson transfer T.J. Sapp, who should be even better this year after missing the first half of last season. Throw in Utah transfer Justin Seymour, and the Racers should be better than the team that went 13-3 in the league and won the CIT. Remember, they were supposed to be a year away last season.

Eastern Kentucky loses a number of key pieces from last season, including Glenn Cosey, but with Corey Walden and Eric Stutz back, the Colonels should be a factor. Southeast Missouri State will be without Tyler Stone and Lucas Nutt, but they bring back three starters, including Jarekious Bradley, and look like the second-best team in the West. One team to keep an eye on: SIU-Edwardsville. They return four starters and their top six scorers from a team that went 7-9 in the league last year. With five seniors on the roster, if they are going to make a move, this is the year to do it.


Cam Payne played out of position throughout his freshman season, filling a role that was left vacant when Zay Jackson blew out his knee. But it didn’t matter, as the 6-foot-2 Memphis native finished the year averaging 16.8 points, 5.4 assists and 1.7 steals while making Racer fans quickly forget about Isaiah Canaan.


  • Jarvis Williams, Murray State, Sr.: The bully inside for the Racers. Williams will play Ed Daniels to Cam Payne’s Isaiah Canaan.
  • Craig Bradshaw, Belmont, Jr.: The next great guard to come through Rick Byrd’s pipeline. Bradshaw averaged 15.7 points as a sophomore.
  • Angelo Warner, Morehead State, Sr.: Warner was the leading scorer for Morehead State a season ago and will be the best player on arguably the league’s most talented team.
  • Jarekious Bradley, SEMO, Sr.: Bradley, a 6-foot-5 forward, was the third-leading scorer in the conference last season at 19.0 points.




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


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

2014 Ohio Valley Tournament Preview: Belmont looking to repeat

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source: AP

Last season, Kerron Johnson propelled Belmont, in its first season as a conference member, to the Ohio Valley tournament title with a last-second bucket over Murray State. If all goes according to plan, the Bruins and the Racers will meet up again in the OVC championship game as they head into the field this season as the Nos. 1 and 2 teams, respectively. Although those two have byes into the semifinals, they will be hard-pressed to get back into the finals.

Eastern Kentucky, one of the league’s more well-balanced teams, can spoil that rematch as the three-seed. Morehead State has dropped three straight entering the tournament, but the Eagles played Belmont — a potential semifinal opponent — tight this season, losing by a combined seven points in two games. All the way toward the bottom of the bracket sits teams like No. 6 Southeast Missouri State, a team with enough offensive weapons to make a run.

Belmont may be playing in its hometown, but as the top seed, and eyeing the program’s fourth straight trip to the NCAA tournament, Rick Byrd’s club with have a target on its back once again.

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

When: March 5-8

Where: Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Final: Saturday, March 8 at 6 p.m. (ESPN2)

Favorite: Belmont

It’s tough to pick against the Bruins. Rick Byrd has built a well-respected program, and despite losing Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson, he’s got his team back in the hunt for another conference tournament title led by senior J.J. Mann, who has shined in his expanded role this season. Belmont once again challenged itself in non-league play with a 3-4 record against the RPI Top 100 and enters the conference tournament with six straight wins.

And if they lose?: Murray State

The Racers have been the royalty of the Ohio Valley Conference, last winning the title in 2012. Despite losing Isaiah Canaan, Ed Daniel and Stacy Wilson — and sophomore Zay Jackson — the Racers remain near the top of the standings, led by talented freshman guard Cameron Payne, who is top 10 in the conference in points and assists per game. Murray State begins postseason play on the heels of a double-overtime loss to Southeast Missouri State, which snapped a five-game winning streak.


  • Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels are one of the OVC’s most efficient teams on both sides of the ball. Though the glass is where they are most vulnerable.
  • Southeast Missouri State: Remember, this team was voted to ahead of Murray State in the preseason poll. We know the Redhawks have the scoring power, and if they get by Eastern Illinois in the first round, they’ll have an advantage on the boards against Eastern Kentucky in the quarterfinals. Riding a four-game winning streak, maybe SEMO is ready to make a postseason run.


  • J.J. Mann, Belmont: He’s had a tremendous season (i.e. game-winner in Chapel Hill), scoring 18.5 points and grabbing 4.8 rebounds per game. Well deserving of his OVC Player of the Year honor.
  • Cameron Payne, Murray State: Went for a season-high 29 against Belmont this season. Averaged 15.9 points and 5.6 assists per game as a freshman.
  • Glenn Cosey, Eastern Kentucky: A bump up in points and assists for the senior guard. He’s gone for 20 or more points 13 times this season.
  • Jarekious Bradley and Tyler Stone, Southeast Missouri State: The duo both average more than 19 points per game, leading the high-power offensive attack.

CBT Prediction: Belmont over Southeast Missouri State