Introducing Cinderella: Can Belmont win their first round of 64 game?

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Belmont won the automatic bid out of the Ohio Valley Conference after winning a thriller in Saturday night’s title game, beating No. 2 seed Murray State on a beautiful back-door layup with two seconds left on the clock.

Belmont won the automatic bid after taking home a share of the OVC regular season title, which they split with Murray State. The Bruins are currently on a 12 game winning streak; they have not lost since Austin Peay knocked them off on January 25th.

LEAGUE: Ohio Valley

COACH: Casey Alexander

RECORD: 26-7, 15-3 OVC

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METRICS:

  • NET: 101
  • KENPOM: 107
  • TORVIK: 95

PROJECTED SEED: Belmont seems destined to end up somewhere around a No. 13 or No. 14 seed.

WHO DID THEY BEAT?: The Bruins did not land any marquee non-conference wins this season. Their two best wins came against Murray State, and a win at Western Kentucky is their only Quad 1 or 2 win on the season.

WHY BELMONT CAN WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

This Belmont team is built around the presence of sophomore center Nick Muszynski in the paint. A 6-foot-11 low post monster, Muszynski is efficient on the block and with his back to the basket. He can also step out and knock down a jumper on the perimeter, and the way that Belmont’s offense functions this season is to use the threat of their three-point shooters to be able to create space for Muszynski inside.

The other two names to know are Adam Kunkel, who is the team’s leading scorer and the best three-point shooter, and Tyler Scanlon, a veteran front court piece.

WHY BELMONT WON’T WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

The same reason that they didn’t win a tournament game the first seven times that they got to the Big Dance: A lack of athleticism. Belmont plays fast, they shoot a lot of threes and the offense they run is aesthetically pleasing. But the truth is that this team does have some issues defending high major teams that will have longer and better athletes. I also wonder how well some of their actions will work to create shots against those defenders.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?

Belmont has been a staple in the NCAA tournament for the last decade and a half, as Rick Byrd built that program into one of the most dominant in the mid-major ranks. Last year, they beat Temple in a play-in game to land their first win in the tournament in eight tries.

AUTOMATIC BID OUTLOOK

I think that Belmont will have a chance to win a game in the tournament if they can shoot it well, but the program is that all of the teams in the 3-4 seed range that they theoretically matchup well with — BYU, Creighton, Villanova, etc. — either have a mobile five or a bigger, more physical center. Put another way, they can beat good teams, I just can’t think of a matchup that I would want to pick them in.