The Byrd Cage

Would You Rather? The Moral Dilemma of Losing

In Game Posts on February 23, 2012 at 7:10 am

Everyone has played ‘Would You Rather’ at some point, right? That’s the game where you come up with two horrible circumstances and then ask the person which one they would prefer. For example, would you rather have your fingernail pulled off with a pair of pliers, or would you rather put a razor blade underneath your toe nail and kick a wall really hard? While Belmont doesn’t exactly find itself in this gory lose/lose situation, fans of the Bruins may encounter a moderate moral dilemma this weekend.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Belmont stands one win away from goal number one posted in the team locker room: a regular season A-Sun championship, and that will be at top of mind heading to Kennesaw on Thursday. But then what happens once that goal has been achieved? I know what Rick Byrd will tell you, “Go down to Macon and win the season finale.” But I’m not Rick Byrd. And we, as fans, aren’t supposed to think like Rick. We’re supposed to be irrational and, well, fanatic. That is why I’m about to propose the following situation (supposing Belmont beats KSU tonight)…
What if Belmont gives it a half-hearted effort on Saturday afternoon in Macon? And not one of those Jim Caldwell specials where you take a team on a verge of history and, for all intents and purposes, kill its dreams, momentum and season, breaking Peyton Manning’s neck in the process. No, I’m talking about one of those vanilla games where Rick keeps the playbook closed. But he evenly distributes the minutes, as I don’t think it would hurt to give Ian, Drew and Kerron a break from their customary 30-35 minutes per game. He doesn’t straight up throw the game, but he doesn’t exactly throw all hands on deck, and gives Mercer the chance to get their win.

Now before everyone raises hell, this isn’t going to happen. But why shouldn’t it?

You don’t have to believe it, but I firmly believe in the difficulty of beating a team 3 times in one season, especially when you have to beat them potentially twice in 7 days IN THEIR BUILDING!!! But it’s just Mercer, right? Wrong. I was there last year when arguably the most prolific team in Belmont history struggled with a fifth seeded Mercer in front of a frisky home crowd and with a team that had absolutely zero to lose. How is this year any different? In 2011, Belmont capped off the season with the Georgia double and marched into Macon with confidence, momentum and good vibrations (Beach Boys), perhaps much like this year. They went back to Nashville for a couple days before finding themselves back in Macon starring down a barrel with the bulls-eye squarely on their back. What everyone remembers about the weekend is the 40+ point shellacking of North Florida, but everyone seems to forget the struggles with Kennesaw State and Mercer in rounds one and two and this caused us just enough trouble to get me thinking.

So, you decide Belmont fans. Perhaps this theory holds no weight. Perhaps Belmont would’ve struggled through last year’s tournament with or without a season sweep of their tournament opponents. But it’s hard to admit, that despite the glaring similarities, this year is gonna feel a little different. Remember folks, we’re leaving the conference and you’re nuts if you think the Bears wouldn’t love to have us in their building next Saturday night with their first trip to the NCAA tournament on the line and a chance to send us whimpering, with our tail between our legs, into the Ohio Valley Conference. I say we give them their senior night, throw them a bone, and give them a season series split, and then rip their hearts out on national television and leave them with nothing but a clouded dream of what could’ve been. But that’s just me.

-Jono Broadhead



  1. One question I have- isn’t momentum an important aspect of successful March Madness teams? For instance, those who win conference tournaments and who have win streaks at the end of the season are generally better in the tournament (i.e. UConn last year). And, how would this affect our seeding in the tournament?

  2. I’m with Brett on this one. Steven made the point last week that Belmont is playing to impress the selection committee at this point. If Belmont wins out the regular season that would be 11 in a row. Right now Belmont’s tied for 7th in the country for win streak with 9 wins in a row. It’s hard to stop a team with that much momentum this late in the season. And I’m not ready to give Mercer that much credit yet.

  3. I agree that it is hard to beat a team three times. Fine. But why would you screw with your moxy when your team is on a roll? Regular seaosn conference champs! And while it is hard to beat a team 3 times in a season, it is also hard to win the whole damn thing. It isn’t supposed to be easy, and I can’t really find practical way that playing close to the vest really helps us win the tournament. Maybe more rest for the guards, but do you think those guys are tired? I really don’t.

  4. What do you gain from losing to Mercer? I want to know what you gain from going into Mercer with an “its ok to lose attitude”. And rest is not relevant to me. I’ll listen.

  5. With the number one seed locked up, you play hard. Personnel wise you play to win. Drew 40 minutes if you have to. But keep the playbook sealed. Only show Mercer what they have seen on film. If you win, you win. Great. You lose, you have ammo left. But it will be interesting to see how much Mercer shows. They are locked into the two seed. What more do they have to gain?

  6. I’m sorry, but you think that mercer doesn’t know the plays by now? It isn’t football, where you don’t want to show formations or tendencies, but there isn’t anything new to show. If I’m the coach and I truly believe in the psycology of beating a team 3 times, I put my scrubs in halfway through the first half and I hand it to them so that I don’t screw with my guys’ heads just days before they are supposed to turn it up to 11 and finish the damn thing. DIII teams know every play that their opponent runs. If you want to win a championship, then go win one. It isn’t supposed to be easy.

  7. The playbook argument has less relevance to me because it’s Ricky Byrd. If it’s anybody else, it’s absolutely valid. But we’re talking about the guy who completely changed the game plan midway through the Duke game in 08. Strategy won’t be a problem for this team at any point.

  8. Let’s go back to last year’s UCONN team. Remember UConn’s unparalleled rise to the top? It was the Big East tournament. Losses to Pitt, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville, and even Marquette in the regular season had them limping into the conference tournament with virtually no one talking about them. And then they did it. First Depaul, then beat #22 Georgetown, then #3 Pitt, then #11 Syracuse, then #14 Louisville to all but win the Big East and get their spot in the Madness. 5 GAMES in 5 DAYS. This fire, I would argue, boosted the team into the the downhill slope of slaying opponents. Kemba had to be tired, but he fed off of it.

  9. While I agree that it is difficult to beat a team 3 times in one year, I say that there’s nothing you can do about it if you are a championship team. Lets go out with 14 in a row, take whatever crappy seed they spank us with, and then go win a tournament game.

  10. The game is not as simple as like to believe young Morpheus. Right. Just win. Why didnt I think of that? Just win the tournament. Brilliant idea. How are you gonna just win the tournament? Rick clearly sees things in Mercer that he hasnt shown that he knows he can exploit. It comes down to adjustments late in the season. Do you show your adjustments or wait til it really counts?

  11. good piece jono…

    honestly, there hasn’t been a lot of adversity for belmont to overcome… granted they lost some bad games (lipscomb, uscu) and have lost some good games (mtsu, vandy)… but most of their wins have been blowouts this season… i wouldn’t mind watching this team struggle at the end, see if they have the gall to get through the big finish…

    plus what about the confidence factor for mercer… if they beat us they have confidence, if they don’t they are demoralized… think about it… they are riding high with this surprising winning season… but can’t get over the belmont hump… beating us, granted even if we throw the game, could give them the ‘think i can’ attitude that might make them MORE dangerous at home…

    but i do agree, that gym will be no place to play if we get matched up… let’s cheer for the seven seed… who’s with me…

    give em a little bit of the glory… see what it tastes like

  12. You are making it more complicated that it should be! I disagree with your presumption that just because you lose the last game it is somehow easier to beat them in the tournament (even though you are right that it is really hard to beat a team 3 times in a season), even if there are these adjustments that Rick knows that he doesn’t want to show. These teams know each other, the coaches know each other it comes down to execution. What is this magic adjustment? I think more of them are made play to play than game to game, but that’s just my thought.

  13. also… i hate blake jenkins

    a message brought to you by everyone who hated my article 🙂

  14. And my point is more about a winning attitude and being on a roll, not some reductionist “they should just win” argument. I don’t want to screw with 10 in a row or whatever it is if I’m the coach.

  15. steve if you hate blake then you hate dunking, and if you hate dunking than you hate america.

  16. It’s a question that has plagued athletes for millennia- Does momentum affect performance? My argument is that it does. In the same way, I think Jono is arguing the same thing. What does momentum mean? What is good momentum? What is bad momentum? When should momentum be gained? These are all important questions.

  17. I love dunking therefore I AM . . . American.

    Great post, Jono.

    Another thing we aren’t considering here is if Mercer can even get to a point where they have to play a third matchup with us. This is a team coming off back-to-back losses vs JACKSONVILLE AND UNF, has to play a burg-less Lipscomb tonight, and then The Mont (as Jono likes to say) on Sat. The way I see it these dudes are going to be demoralized going into the tournament and won’t even live to see a third matchup. There. I said it.

  18. Based on the quotes coming out of Mercer.. “Mainly just communicating that we still have hope..” This might be a “Finish Him” moment.

  19. I like it. Ok new question, which MKII character is Belmont going in the ASUN tourney:



  20. like when sub zero rips your head off…

    i hate america, blake jenkins, and dunks…

    we need to go back to fundamentals… mainly, bounce passes and layups

    see that video that taught the looney tunes how to play the game of basketball… pure


  21. everybody knows that barack is the most villainous… and he is also president of the americas

  22. Momentum moschemtum. Who gives a crap? Has anyone every thought that maybe momentum is actually a hard thing to sustain. And at what point does a winning streak start to wear on you as something you have to protect? Ask a coach if he would rather have momentum or if he would rather have his team peaking at the right time and he would want his team to be peaking 12 out of 10 times. As long as you are playing your best basketball at the right time, nothing else matters. And if resting some people on Saturday is a way to make sure everyone is best prepared for the conference tourney, then so be it.

  23. I’m all for resting, I’m not for screwing with a team THAT IS PEAKING AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME. If you are worried about resting your team, then you pull them 10 minutes into the game and you live with Holden Mobley jacking up Patrick Brand style bricks. My hunch is that Byrd is not worried about fatigue at this point.

  24. Jono, looks like Ricky Byrd is at least asking himself the same questions:

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