The Byrd Cage

Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Belmont Loses to Georgetown

In Game Posts on March 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm

On Friday, Belmont lost to Georgetown 74-59 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.  It was the fifth NCAA tournament berth for Belmont in seven years.  The Bruins had a great season this year, and the Byrd Cage can’t wait until the next!  We will be breaking down recruiting, the Ohio Valley Conference, and much, much more during the offseason.  Stay tuned…


“About Last Night” with Mort and Hugs: HOYA! (Or, Week 4)

In Game Posts on March 16, 2012 at 7:45 am

“About Last Night” is a weekly feature where no good tweet goes unpunished.  Mort and Hugs serve up their weekly opinions on all tweets, links, and viral blunders relating to Belmont basketball… loosely.

The theme of this week’s About Last Night with Mort AND Hugs is “If you need to ask what the theme of this week’s ‘About Last Night with Mort and Hugs’ is then you are a mouth-breathing idiot who clearly accidentally stumbled across this page while looking for World of Warcraft forums or for sexy dudes (like Mort and Hugs) to pin to your ‘Hottiez w/ Bodiez’ board on Pinterest.”

It’s March Madness and this is a basketball blog, you dummy.  Thus, this week’s column is devoted (almost) entirely to all things tourney.  I need to give a shoutout to our D.C. Doppelgangers, @CasualHoya.  They are classy guys with a great blog who are willing to engage in some good-natured, competitive repartee during the week leading up to our matchup.  That said, Mort and Hugs would like to go on record as saying that Casual Hoya and all of their brood can go die.  Anyone who is not a Bruin or Bruin supporter is in our eyes, for at least the next 48 hours, a festering pile of human garbage.  But more on that later.

FIRST, allow me to explain why I’m fairly certain that Nashville will be one of the first cities to perish in burning sulfur under God’s righteous judgment (that’s what the movie 2012 was about, right?).  I would like to direct your attention to the screenshot below:

This was taken at around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday night, mere hours after the selection show.  TWO Nashville teams are in the tournament, and there was not a single reference to Belmont, Vanderbilt, Bruins, Commodores, NCAA, or March Madness (unless that’s what The Announcement refers to.  The world may never know).  The only overtly basketball-related topics were Magic Johnson andThe NIT, which of course stands forNobodygivestwocrapsaboutyourInsignificant Tournament.  I just about lit my own house on fire out of bewildered anger tinged with the sadness that comes from acknowledging societal decline.  Topics that were somehow MORE relevant than the biggest Nashville sports news since Matt Hasselbeck (not a high bar, I know) include:
(More after the jump)


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Penny Picks Them Right… Do You?

In Game Posts on March 15, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Click here to see how you are doing against Penny!

Speaking With The Enemy

In Game Posts on March 15, 2012 at 8:32 am

We’ve got everything covered here at the Byrd Cage for you leading up to the big game tomorrow.  We even took some time to get some answers from the enemy.  Below are our questions to Georgetown’s blog, The Casual Hoya.

Let’s cut to the chase, what in the world is a Hoya? Really?

CasualHoya: Yes.
BelmontByrdCage: What?
CH: That’s correct.
BBC:  What’s correct?
CH:  What is.
BBC: A Hoya is a what?
CH: Exactly.
BBC: What’s exactly?
CH: What is.
BBC: I don’t know what is.
CH: I don’t know is third base.  A Hoya is what.
BBC: What?
CH: Exactly.
BBC:  Look, let’s say I want to start a blog about a Hoya.  I go down
to my mother’s basement, start up my computer, get on the internet and
start a blog about what?
CH: Exactly.
BBC: I start a blog about exactly?
CH: No, you start a blog about what.

Read the rest of this entry »

Georgetown: The Deep Cut

In Game Posts on March 14, 2012 at 9:54 am

I may be biased, but the Belmont vs. Georgetown game should be one of the most exciting games this weekend.  This would be the college football match-up equivalent of Alabama or LSU against Oklahoma State. On one side you have a high powered offense- on the other, you have a “grind it out” style defense.

Every reference to statistics, unless I say otherwise, comes from this source.

Offensive Efficiency

I’m going to take a slightly unpopular stance and start by giving you a grain of salt. Georgetown is a very good team. Like, three seed in the tournament, fourth in the Big East type good. In all likelihood, if Belmont played in the Big East this year, they might have finished second to last at best.

But you wouldn’t know that by comparing these teams’ offensive statistics. Offensively, Belmont is in another stratosphere. The Bruins rank fourth nationally in points per game (81.5), fifth in effective shooting percentage (56%), fourth in assists per game (17.4) and third in points per possession (1.17). In each of those statistical categories, the Hoyas rank 142nd (69.1 ppg), 79th (51.5 eFG%), 95th (13.7 APG), and 63rd (1.07 ppp). If only these were the only statistics that mattered, right?

Now, you Hoya people will be tempted to say, “Hey, we’re in the Big East. You’re in the Atlantic Sun. (#truth) Of course your offense is going to look good.” First of all, thank you for the compliment. Secondly, you’re right; Belmont’s strength of schedule is nowhere near Georgetown’s but I think equally as important as WHO the Bruins played is HOW they played. Regardless of WHO they played, Belmont still tallied an average winning margin of 19.3 points on the season. Additionally, the Bruins scored 81 in Memphis, had a 52.6 eFG% in Cameron, averaged 14 APG in both the Duke and Memphis games and tallied 1.02 PPP in the same. Belmont’s numbers didn’t change materially against far superior talent to the remainder of their opponents.

My point is this: these numbers serve to indicate a particular style of play. Belmont likes to score a lot of points with a lot of different people, take care of the ball and be as efficient as possible. Belmont will do everything in its power to dictate the tempo of this game (as will Georgetown). If the Bruins can bait the Hoyas into an up-and-down type game, that style would appear to favor the Bruins.

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Coach Byrd Talks Hoyas with 104.5 the Zone’s Midday 180

In Game Posts on March 13, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Click here to listen!

It’s That Time Of Year: The “Penny Pick Em” Bracket Challenge

In Game Posts on March 13, 2012 at 11:41 am

Can you beat the Belmont basketball loving doggie “Penny” in a bracket challenge?  We at the Byrd Cage think you simply cannot.

The Story:

Last year we decided to put one of our writers’ dogs, Penny, up to the challenge of a bracket.  We placed each individual match-up on pieces of paper, placed each team an equal distance apart, and put a wonderful doggie treat on each team’s paper.  We tried to make them small, but after all, this was a feast day for Penny.   We then asked Penny to sit, stay, and then go!  Her first choice of treat on the corresponding paper was the team she picked to win the game.

We thought she was favoring high seeds this time, as she picked Belmont again and again.  So we even switched the seed sides around, making sure Penny wasn’t just going to her right every time.  What we found at the end of the “Pick Em” was a Penny that chose some good match-ups, some crazy upsets, and Belmont in the Final Four.

Do you have what it takes?

The password is, of course, penny.

 Click here to join!

Georgetown: In Brief

In Game Posts on March 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm

The Hoyas.  You might be wondering just what a Hoya is… and well, that is what the Byrd Cage is here for… I think.

Direct from

“Many years ago, when all Georgetown students were required to study Greek and Latin, the University’s teams were nicknamed “The Stonewalls.” It is suggested that a student, using Greek and Latin terms, started the cheer “Hoya Saxa!”, which translates into “What Rocks!” The name proved popular and the term “Hoyas” was eventually adopted for all Georgetown teams.”

Great.  Well now we know what a Hoya is… I think.  Maybe we can get some more information about the Hoyas at our interview with the guys from the Casual Hoya, but until then we will have to go with that explanation.

Georgetown:  The Schedule

Georgetown has a nearly blemish free RPI of 15.  They have a (7-5) record against teams in Top 50 RPI rankings.  Here is a brief overview of their schedule.

Nice Wins:  Memphis, Louisville, Marquette (the first time)

The Bad Losses:  There aren’t really many bad losses for this team (when comparing to higher seeds).  The team only lost 8 games.  There are as follows; Kansas, West Virginia, Cincinatti, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Seton Hall, Marquette, Cincinatti.  Six out of their eight losses come to teams that have an average of a 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.  This is all together frightening.  However, let’s take a look at Georgetown’s “bad” losses.

Pittsburgh–  Playing barely over .500 basketball at the end of the year, the Panthers’ preseason expectations were thoroughly squandered when an out of nowhere Long Beach State team handled the Panthers in their own gym.  While good enough to be a 12 seed, Long Beach State should have been a wake-up call. Pitt responded with a nine game winning streak, followed by an eight game losing streak, followed by a four game winning streak, and then losing 7 out of their last 9 games.  It is off to the CBI tournament for the Panthers, but it is up to you to judge the streakiness of a Panther team gone wrong in 2012 and how tough of a loss this really was to the Hoyas.

Seton Hall– Part of the large “Big East Bubble”, the Pirates lost 12 games this season but managed to shoot 61% from both the floor and behind the arch against the Hoyas this year in what was a serious handling of G-town.  It was a final score of 73-55, a drubbing that gives this Belmont Bruins’ fan a little hope.  Stay tuned tomorrow for more info on this game, and we’ll explore if the Pirates exposed a certain weakness the Hoyas may have been hiding.

Players to Watch

Jason Clark, 6-2 senior, scores 14 points a game and has 50 steals on the season.  

Hollis Thompson, 6-8 junior, shoots .458 from the 3.

Stay tuned for more in-depth previews tomorrow, and we get to ask some of our burning questions to the Casual Hoya about the match-up!

Which Belmont NCAA Tournament Team is the Best?

In Game Posts on March 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Over the last six years it has been almost tradition to cheer for the one and done Belmont Bruins.  Each year our expectations rise a little bit more and we wonder if we’re ever going to be the next Gonzaga or George Mason.  So, how does this team stack up against tournament teams in the past?

Breaking Down Teams Categorically

Note: This Belmont team boasts the highest RPI (58) in school history due to their sub-200 strength of schedule.  Take that with a grain of salt when considering the following statistics.


The current Bruins team has by far been the best of all the tournament teams in this statistic.  They average 81.5 points-per-game, which is the most of the past teams, but isn’t out of the norm for any of these Rick Byrd coached squads.  The team that got shelled by UCLA in 2006 averaged 80.6 and last year’s 30-win A-Sun powerhouse averaged 79.7.  It hasn’t been unusual to see the Bruins in the top-20 in the nation in this category.  But what is different about this team is that they are 4th in the nation in points per possession and although they shoot a strong 37.8% from the arc, they are 13th in the nation with a 48.4 overall FG%.  This team has a better inside presence than last years team, which could come in handy if the 3-point shot isn’t falling. But if you want to know the best Bruin team with an inside game you have to look back to 2006 when the Bruins we’re scoring more than 50% of their points from inside the arc.

The verdict: This year’s Bruins are the best in their NCAA tournament history in overall scoring.  They are a more well-rounded scoring team we have ever had.  If they can push the score into the 80’s they may just have the offense to overwhelm any nationally ranked team in the country.



The Byrd Cage has always been extra critical of Belmont’s rebounding ability and historically this team has been a very average rebounding team.  Our best rebounding team we ever had was the 2007 team (with the Boomer), when they ranked 55th in the nation.  However, they were pitiful on the offensive boards (34% offensive rebound percentage).  What made last years Bruins team so effective was in their offensive rebounding, averaging almost 13 per game ranking them in the top 50 in the nation in that particular statistic.  The current Bruins team is mediocre at best in the offensive rebounding category.

The verdict: Second chance points are essential to beating teams that are better than you. Keeping the opponent from scoring pesky second chance points is what is going to keep Belmont in the game when they are trying to keep pace.  This could be a struggle.  If the Bruins can grab at least 14 offensive boards, they give themselves an excellent chance at winning historically.



Well, whoever it was that said “defense wins championships,” I hope they are wrong.  The 2012 Bruins are, plainly stated, bad defensively.  What made last year’s 30-win team a threat coming into the tournament was their ability to take away points.  They averaged a staggering, eye-popping, dehumanizing 19 turnovers per game, while this year’s team ranks towards the bottom compared to the other four tournament teams with 14.5.  Last year’s team also ranked 2nd in the nation by giving up only .89 points per possession.  This year’s team: .97 point per possession.  But this isn’t the worst we have ever had- remember that team that “almost beat Duke”? They averaged 1.01.

The verdict: Let’s just hope that we run into a team who ate whole sticks of butter for breakfast, because it’s going to be hard to stop any top-25 ranked team (remember Memphis).  However, if the 2008 team is any indication, anything can happen in the tournament. (Please note:  Article was written before Georgetown was drawn as opponent.  Stay tuned for our Georgetown previews in the days ahead)

Offensive Turnovers – I probably bang this drum harder than anyone and have taken some flack for it, but when I said that Blake Jenkins’ four turnovers against ETSU was a sign of bad things to come if gone uncorrected, I stand by the statement.  The cure for a bad defense is limiting chances for the other team.  This team is the best we have ever seen in that statistic.  Giving up just 12.4 turnovers per game, this year’s Bruins are excellent in ball-control.  If you compare that with our worst team we have ever sent to the tournament (in this category), the 2006 team gave up 16.2 TOPG and even last year’s 30-win team gave up 13.7.

The verdict: Ball control is perhaps the Bruins strongest attribute, and if they can keep their composure while being under the big lights of the national spot-light- they will win ball games.  But they have to be perfect!  If they give up more than 10 possessions we could be in for a long night. 



My All-Time Tournament Team

Editor’s Note:  This list is based on single season performances by players from the five tournaments teams, we invite your discussion.


Center – Boomer Herndon (2006)   14.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.8 bpg

We all complain about how Boomer hurt the pace of his team, but like I may have hinted at above, he actually didn’t.  The Bruins averaged more possessions and more points per game than most of the other Bruin tournament teams with Boomer in the lineup.  His 7.4 rebounds per game in 2006 are almost 2 rebounds better than both Saunders and Hedgepeth this year.  Hate him or love him, that “UT reject” was our UT reject- just erase the line drive hook shots from the UCLA game out of your mind.

Forward – Shane Dansby (2008)  13.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg

If you saw this guy in class, you would know that he not only was an amazing offensive force on the court but he was also a fabulous texter, leading all Belmont students with 37 per minute.  But, in all seriousness, the Bruins have never seen a guy who could rebound and shoot like Dansby did in 2008.  He shot 51% from the field, but when you consider that he also 41 for 109 from the arc, that FG% looks even stronger.

Shooting Guard – Justin Hare (2008) 14.7 ppg, 91.8 FT%

Justin Hare will forever be immortalized for his clutch free throw shooting in A-Sun tournament.  No one on any of these tournament teams have gotten close to Justin Hare’s free throw shooting ability.  Mix in his smooth stroke behind the arc and you have a Bruin player who is one of the best ever.

Shooting Guard – Drew Hanlen (2012) 48.1 3FG%, 3.8 apg, 3.4 rpg

Currently riding the Byrd Cage Bump (he’s been on fire since his interview, coincidence?), Drew Hanlen is one of the best 3-point shooters in the country this year.  With Lipscomb’s Burgason gone,  Nashville’s best shooter is old ‘Hoopin Hanlen’.  His other contributions of grabbing loose boards and distributing the ball well has shown a mature, clutch guard.

Point Guard – Kerron Johnson (2012)  14 ppg, 5.1 apg, 1.4 spg

I have been critical of Kerron Johnson all season, mostly because he has failed to live up to his “god-mode” 3 point shooting and defensive statistics from last year.  But, by the end of the season, Johnson has turned it around and has really settled into his role of passer, lane-driver, and pest on defense.

Sixth Man – Kerron Johnson (2011)   7.8 ppg, 2.7 apg, 2.0 spg

What made the Bruins so spectacular to watch last year was Kerron Johnson off the bench.  It has been our speculation at the Byrd Cage that perhaps Kerron Johnson’s numbers were slipping this year was because he was being overplayed.  When he was averaging just 18 minutes per game, he was scary good.  However, since the Lipscomb up-set he’s been on point and proving himself to be the true starting point guard of this team.


The Rank


1 – 2011 – One word- Depth.  Our defense last year was so lethal because we were able to press for an entire game.

2 – 2012 – A remedy for a bad defense is a dehumanizing offense.  Best offense we’ve ever seen.

3 – 2008 – Anybody else sick of the “Almost beat Duke” talks?  X-factor? Justin Hare on the free throw line (think of him as a country-western Steve Nash)

4 – 2006 – Pace, pace, pace, they’d wear you down and then B-is-for-Boomer would slap the ball in your face.  Just don’t ask him to post up with a sky hook.

5 – 2007 – It was really a transition year (pre-Renfro, pre-Campbell), that turned into a team that got scorching hot in the ASun tournament and rained fire on Johnson City beating ETSU by over 30 points in the championship.


-Steven Lefebvre

Love the list?  Hate the list?  Let us know in the comments!

Everybody Talking About Belmont

In Features, Game Posts on March 12, 2012 at 7:44 am

Look who’s talking…

Kerron Johnson on front page of CBSsports

CBSsports:  Picks the Belmont Upset

ESPN:  Kerron Johnson in Top-10 Mid-Major stars that could bust your bracket

Dick Vitale via USA Today:  Belmont “will not be an easy out”

ESPN:  Nashville is one of only two cities to have two teams in the tournament

ESPN Giant Killers:  Belmont is ranked the 2nd most likely team to upset

ESPN Giant Killers:  Drew Hanlen listed as a player who could cause an upset

ESPN Andy Katz:  Belmont Could Beat Georgetown

SBNation:  Belmont a “good” candidate for upset

SBNation:  More upset talk (New Jersey Local News):  Georgetown overrated, Belmont “tricky”

CBSsports:  Belmont not afraid of anyone

CBSsports:  One of the Top 5 “Must Watch” games

AP:  Belmont thinks 5th time is a charm

CBS’ Seth Davis:  Belmont in Sweet 16

NBC Connecticut:  More Sweet 16 Talk

NBC:  Belmont a “trendy” pick

NY Daily News:  Teams to “watch out for”

Bleacher Report:  Belmont Sweet 16?

Belmont a “Dark Horse”

What about you?  What do you think?