The Byrd Cage

Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Belmont’s Home Opener and Summing Up The Maui Invitational

In Game Posts on November 28, 2011 at 8:56 pm





Tonight is Belmont’s home opener against cross-town Trevecca Nazarene.  Trevecca is right down the road, just south of downtown Nashville.  Let’s learn a little bit more about them.

The Trevecca Nazarene Trojans are in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).  They have, according to a news release dated Nov. 5, recently been accepted to the NCAA DII Great Midwest Atlantic Conference as a charter member for next year.  They have a 2500 student enrollment, and are of the Nazarene denominational affiliation.

As far as the basketball team goes, they come into this game with a 5-3 record, losing to NAIA ranked no. 18 Southern Nazarene University despite an impressive 28 point performance from 6-2 senior Michael France.  The Trojans also boast a 6-11 Junior from Belgrade, Serbia, Milos Macura.  Tonight the Trojans will look to prove something against a D-1 NCAA Belmont team that has been playing good basketball against top-tier NCAA teams.


Maui Invitational


In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard, MTSU took Belmont to a double-overtime game in the Maui Invitational Regional Tournament Championship.  Belmont won 87-84 against against the best MTSU team some say we have seen.  Period.  We also thrashed Towson 87-41 on our way and brought our record to 2-2, yet so close to 3-1…


The Good 

J.J. Mann’s 19 points against MTSU.

The Good(er)

As a team, we had only two turnovers against Towson.  Almost error free basketball.  Amazing.

The Bad

Both Towson and MTSU out-rebounded us; 36-46 and 31-42, respectively.  Granted, we thrashed Towson, but it is still something to keep watch on.  This was our strength against both Memphis and Duke.

The Ugly

I so very desperately want Brandon Baker to get out of this column.  I really do.  And I know it will happen, but Baker made his first and only shot of the season against MTSU.  He is now 1-16 from the field.  He has tried for eleven 3-pointers and has missed all of them.  Here’s to a better season ahead for the guy.


Looking Ahead

After Trevecca tonight, Belmont gets conference opponents Kennesaw State and Mercer later in the week, an important time to start dominating the Atlantic Sun in our last year in the conference.  Something also to note, Belmont gets a Tennessee State team on 12/6 at home that beat South Carolina on November 20th, notching the team’s first SEC win in history.


Go Bruins!




Belmont vs. Towson Preview

In Game Posts on November 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm

The “Mann”

Belmont has played two games in the Maui Invitational so far this year, but will start its “Regional” games on November  19th.


The Towson Tigers are in a similar position with the same record, 0-2.  Unlike Belmont, the Tigers (not Memphis) got squashed in their first two games, losing by nearly 50 points in its opener with Kansas, 100-54.  The second game was a bit closer with no. 17 ranked Michigan, but the Tigers let Michigan go on a 21-0 run from the start of the game, and ended up losing 64-47.

Let’s get a closer look at the Towson Tigers.

-Towson University is located 8 miles north of downtown Baltimore, Maryland

-Enrollment: 21,840

Towson will start its game against Belmont on Saturday trying to break a 21-game losing streak


Towson Tigers To Watch:







6-8′ Senior Forward, Robert Nwankwo- Missed last season, but was ranked top-10 nationally with blocked shots for the 09-10 season.  Scored team high 16 points against Michigan, with 10 rebounds.







6-5′ Freshman, Deon Jones– Scored 12 points against Michigan.  Delaware State Player of the Year.


Quick Breakdown

Belmont will have a chance to show its dominance on defense in this game, with both Hedgepeth and Saunders having a small height advantage to Towson’s Nwankwo.

I am also interested to see how Coach Byrd runs the “small forward” position, with the problems of  depth we seem to be dealing with between Baker’s shooting atrociousness and Noack’s lack of play experience.

The Bruins, of course, play one game at a time.  And as a fan of any sport, I tend to cringe when pundits overlook games because they are easy.  I feel like a coach in a way (which is a scary thought), always wanting my focus to be on the next game, no matter how poor the opponent may be playing.

But  I just can’t help but look at who we may be playing on Sunday.  MTSU is likely to beat University of North Carolina (Greensboro) on Saturday, and is hot off the heels of making UCLA look like USC Upstate.  Granted, UCLA lost to Loyola Marymount by 11 its first game and following that loss, star forward Reeves Nelson was suspended for “not looking at the coaches and not listening or something”, but a 20 point win against any UCLA team is impressive.

With offensive explosiveness from Ian Clark, Kerron Johnson, and J.J. Mann’s hot start, Belmont needs to show a shooting dominance against a young Towson team to build confidence going into Sunday against the most confident MTSU we have seen.

But we’ll worry about the Blue Raiders when we get there…




Byrd’s Boys: How We Looked Against Memphis

In Game Posts on November 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm

The game looked alot like this.

But the final score of 97-81 does not show the whole story, and neither does the picture above.

My assumptions of Memphis’ over-rated offense were soon squelched as four-year Wesley Witherspoon was a perfect 8-8 from the field, scoring 22 points.

An overlooked story from this game, however, was that Belmont actually out-rebounded the Tigers in this game, 39-27.  A huge margin against an AP top 10 ranked team.   But our 6-for-20,  3 point attempt statistic against their 50%  was the biggest story in the game.  Rebounds only matter when they turn into points.

Belmont’s J.J. Mann played a great game, with 18 points and Ian Clark combined with Kerron Johnson scored 29.  But this just wouldn’t be enough against a Memphis team that was lights out on the offensive side of the ball.

The Good: Belmont’s speed, intensity, and rebounds.

The Bad:  Three point shooting and stupid turnovers.

The Ugly:  Brandon Baker, again.  He was 0-8 shooting.  If my memory serves me correctly he shot three, three pointers at the beginning of the game.  Back-to-back-to-back.  And missed them all, resulting in a run from Memphis we were fighting against all day.  (Okay maybe it was two back-to-back, but still).

I know Baker isn’t the only problem here, it was the entire offense.  We have seen great things from him before, it is probably just opening game cobwebs.  But this problem needs to be fixed.  And fast.

Now to stop being so hard on Byrd’s Boys.

Belmont played the toughest opening in any season of their history, maybe even the toughest opening two games in the history of any mid-major team (I definitely don’t have the stats to prove this)  and truly showcased talent and discipline.  Belmont showed a mature type of resilience against Duke- and even Memphis, particularly when down.  Belmont had rallies in both games, bringing the games close on the home court of two powerhouse teams on their opening day.

Belmont soon coasts into A-Sun play, but we should not overlook the match-up on Dec. 13 against MTSU.  The Blue Raiders and just beat UCLA (the other Bruins) by 20.

I look forward to the season ahead, and i’m proud of how the boys looked against two of the top teams in the nation.

Belmont vs. Memphis: Top 10 Take-down Try, Round 2

In Game Posts on November 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Belmont will face no. 10 ranked Memphis in just a few hours.   This match-up comes on the heels of the largest amount of votes from the AP Poll in Bruins history- 21, and a close call with the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor on Friday.

But what does Memphis bring to the table that Duke didn’t?  Surely, if the Bruins can keep it together long enough to almost beat a Blue Devils team on their home court, they can stick with a team many are calling “overrated”, right?

But Memphis returns all five starters from last year’s team that nearly upset no. 5 seed Arizona in a thrilling opening round to the NCAA tournament.  And while many fans Tigers fans are excited about all five returning starters, some have pointed out the lack of offense last year as a main reason to call this Tigers team “over-hyped”.

Memphis had the worst points-per-possession (PPP) in the entire Conference USA last year.  Yes.  They were worse than Rice when it came to this scoring statistic.  Scoring .97 PPP.  Not even a whole point a possession.   But the pro-argument for Memphis is that inexperience last year leads to experience this year.  Though still lead by sophomores and one of the youngest head coaches in the NCAA, Josh Pastner, the Tigers have a substantial amount to prove to everyone this year.

Belmont’s experience (as I have already outlined previously) will be a major factor in this game, as well as the dominance Belmont showed in rebounding against the Blue Devils just four days ago.

Belmont will need to have a better showing behind the arc than they did at Cameron Indoor, and they will need big plays from their defense.

Memphis Tigers: Players To Watch

6-6′ Sophomore Will Barton, named pre-season all conference first team, averaged 12.3 points a game last year.

5-8′ Sophomore forward Tarik Black, averaged 5.0 rebounds a game last year.

Belmont has a great chance in this game, but I don’t want to “mark this one down in sharpie” just yet.  This is Memphis’ first game of the season, and the NCAA understands that Belmont means business.  Belmont’s maturity will need to shine first by controlling the pace of the game, and playing with intensity underneath the basket.

That being said, Belmont by 3.

Belmont, Belmont, Goooooooo Belmont!

-Brett McReynolds

Belmont at Duke: A Quick Glance at How We Beat Ourselves

In Game Posts on November 14, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Yes, many called me crazy.  Some even laughed at my breakdown of the Duke/Belmont match-up and my argument that the Bruins could beat a young Duke team.


And here is where I could tell you about how I was right, and how my predictions virtually came true.

But I won’t do that, because half of my prediction was wrong.

Belmont couldn’t shoot the three, a strength I said we have- that I said we would need to win.

And it wasn’t like Duke’s defense contested us on the perimeter, either.  Most of our three point attempts were uncontested rim-to-backboard-clunkers.

But the statistic I found most enlightening about our play, and that gives me hope for the season ahead-


Belmont tied the Blue Devils in rebounds.  33-33.  6-10 Duke forward Mason Plumlee was strongly contested by the Bruins’ forwards, Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders, combining for 12 rebounds against Plumlee’s total of 14.

Again, as I mentioned in my preview of the game, Belmont’s depth offered new life into the game.  With the bench coming in taking 12 rebounds, Rick Byrd’s team showed plenty of strength and discipline against a highly-touted, albeit young Duke team.

But Belmont’s  6-19 statistic from the 3-point-line shows one of the many reasons this game was ours to lose.


Bruins fans, do not hold your held low.  How many teams can go into Cameron Indoor and play the Blue Devils to the buzzer?  Not many.



ByrdCage Recap

The Good:  Belmont matched Duke’s rebounding, 33-33.

The Bad: 6-19 at the three-point-line.

The Ugly: Brandon Baker’s 0-6 shooting and 22 minutes of playing time.


Belmont Can Beat Duke (Originally Published on 11/11)

In Game Posts on November 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm

A 30 win, 13-seed playing 4-seed Wisconsin, Belmont’s depth and experience seemed to sway even the biggest college basketball pundits from going with Wisconsin in the many bracketology discussions last March.  But, the Bruins struggled with the 3 on the offensive side of the ball, and Wisconsin’s big men were too much down low for a Bruins team that thought they might finally break into the second (third) round of the tournament.

But tonight, Belmont gets a chance at sweet redemption.  In 2008, the “Big Dance” showdown no one was talking about, the Bruins started playing with the Blue Devils.  Duke squeaked out the win, 71-70 in a “last-few-seconds” layup, sending the Bruins playing the blues all the way back to Music City.

Tonight can be different.

Belmont returns four starters, including 6-3 guard Ian Clark who averaged 12.2 points (team high) a game last season (and while this figure may not immediately communicate dominance from the perimeter, it is more of a statistic of the Bruins’ tremendous depth) and 6-9 Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders who each averaged 10 points and 5 boards a game.  Drew Hanlen, Senior point guard, returns to lead the Bruins and feed Clark with speed and minimal turnovers.  Five more players also return from last year’s team that all saw a large amount of playing time in a Rick Byrd coached team that is known for its discipline and deep bench play.

But will this be enough to postpone Krzyzewski’s pursuit of the winningest record for one game?

It just might be.

There is no denying Krzyzewski’s history of top-tier recruitment and elite coaching.  But what is the weakness of this pre-ranked 6th team in the nation?


Belmont’s strength is Duke’s greatest weakness, if you can even say Duke has a weakness.

But just venture down this path with me for a moment.

Duke’s top three scorers from last year are gone.  Seth Curry, 6-2 Junior guard from North Carolina, returns as Duke’s top scorer, averaging only 9 points a game last season.  With Curry the team’s top returning scorer as a Junior, the team only returns one senior, Miles Plumlee.

And I mean “only” 6-10 Miles Plumlee and the 30 points he scored in his last exhibition game.  This will be the primary obstacle in the way of Belmont’s upset at Cameron Indoor.

Duke’s size really is unbelievable.  And it all starts with the trio of Plumlee brothers; Miles, Mason, and Marshall- 6-10, 6-10, and 6-11, respectively.  And it ends with Ryan Kelly, a 6-11 Junior from Raleigh, NC.

Four players 6-10 and above.  Unreal.

But while many might scoff at the idea of a close game again with the Blue Devils, I have confidence the Bruins can make a good run, and potentially beat a young Duke team with less experience.

Belmont will need to be good at the 3, with plenty of help from Hedgepeth and Saunders down low.

And what some call a longshot, I call redemption.

Belmont by 2.