The Byrd Cage

“Everything That Happened In The Last Belmont Hoop Hour”- Because You Probably Had To Work

In Game Posts on March 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Yesterday afternoon, Belmont University hosted another installment of its aptly named Hoop Hour.
While I missed the first few “Hoop Hours” and enjoyed Ben’s write up of the first event, somehow I had got it in my head that the coaches were going to show some film from a couple of crucial tournament plays and really break them down – like they do on ESPN but without the holographic and overzealous zooming. Instead, the coaches ad-libbed over the same sort of highlight reels you see on the Belmont basketball site – which are great – just not what I expected at this event.

The stage was primed and ready for Rick to get down to the nitty gritty on some recent critical plays like Ian’s 1st half buzzer beater in the championship game that brought the Bruins within 3 after trailing by as much as 13. Instead, Coach admitted he had nothing prepared and was going to wing his comments over the video the GA had prepared (has this guy been busy lately or something? Sheesh). So several . . . nuggets . . . lets call them . . . of knowledge were dispensed upon the eager ears in the Vince Gill room as cued to Coach Byrd’s memory via some highlight footage set to typical basketball hiphop tracks made by freshmen rec-tech classes.

So too shall I present them to ye, the ByrdCage faithful, in nugget form

-Coach started out by saying that after pulverizing the ASUN yet again, the number-one thing the program needed to do was to fill seats at the Curb. Apparently, the Curb averaged 2,000 attendees this season which is actually a pretty abysmal average for a team that has gone to the dance 5 of the past 7 years (for a good LOL compare this to #1 Kentucky’s 2011 average home attendance of 23,603). This seemed to be a big theme throughout the luncheon: Develop more I-don’t-miss-a-game fans. The Bruins have established they are ‘big-league’ (as Mark Grace likes to say) and now have to get Davidson County fannies in the seats. While reduced travel costs have been touted as the main reason for the OVC move, it became clear throughout Rick’s talk, that increased media attention was the other big goal the program was after. Coach alluded to the fact that President Fisher was extremely loyal to the ASUN and it seemed that Rick had to do some convincing that the move would really help the University’s regional visibility. Interesting.

-While watching film of a characteristically enigmatic drive to the rim by Kerron Johnson, instead of saying, “Kerron really has a knack for getting to the basket” Coach said “People tend to play bad D against Kerron”.

-He said Adam Barnes has been a great role player and that Blake Jenkins is “improving” – something I’ve come to love about the Byrd Man is his extreme reluctance to stroke the egos of his stars – this is further evidenced in his response to Brett’s interview question about Blake Jenkins being the X-factor in the second half of the season.

-Apparently Rickster nominated 5 of his own players to the ASUN All-Conference team and was surprised to see the team draw 3 first team all conference and 1 second team all conference selections. He got a lot of laughs by following those numbers up with, “How in the world did we lose any games?!”

-Coach noted that Ian was the first Bruin to get named ASUN defensive player of the year, despite the fact that some of his guys don’t even know how to spell defense. Yes, he actually said that.  He then went on to say that Ian really lived up to the new title by literally saving the championship game with his 2nd half defense on FGCU’s nutty Brett Comer who was an absolute freak in the 1st half and had proven to be too much for Hoopin Hanlen’s best defensive efforts.

-Noted that this is the best team he’s ever had at making “one-more pass” and reminded us that although Kerron doesn’t have a stellar three point percentage, he made several clutch threes throughout the season and especially in the tournament.

-After seeing a clip of Chad Lang, Rick said, “There’s everybody’s favorite player right there.” Believe it, Rick. The ‘0” is still a novelty to the masses because we don’t depend on him to be our ‘inside presence’ yet.

-First half footage of the championship game was more like a ‘Best of Ian Clark Show’ so his comments often circled back to Ian. For instance, Rick noted that Belmont would likely have been down 20 at the half against FGCU if it hadn’t been for Ian’s 14 pt reign of terror in the first half.

-After watching a highlight of a Mick Hedgepeth layup, coach reminded the group of Baker’s attempt at a fast break lay-up in the championship game that went off the glass and ended up back at the foul line only to be put back by the wise trailing Hedgepeth. The comment was endearing and more centered around the fact that a contested NCAA layup is no small feat – but it was somehow definitely still a Baker joke.

-About 15 minutes in he urged everyone to relish in the joy of the team’s 5th trip to the tournament and to not take it for granted, as there are teams who have been playing for almost 50 years in the NCAA and haven’t made it to the tournament even once. You never know when/if we’ll get back again. So wise.

-In an inspiring bit reflecting on the Bruins upcoming 5th NCAA tournament 1st round game, he said his Bruins are a bunch of guys that the big name schools turned there noses up at, and that these same big programs the Bruins will likely get matched up with next week consist of guys that Belmont never could have recruited. This sort of narrative is the proverbial underdog-fuel that the Bruins hope to use to propel themselves to greatness. He paused and said, “I think, believe, and hope that our team KNOWS that they can win this game.”

-Coach Byrd noted that Kerron is not as quick and fast as Renfroe, that Kerron and Scott have really improved their free throw shooting since last year, that Ian’s abdominal issues remain a mystery, and that Belmont’s inside game – their bread and butter – will likely not be as effective against any other team they’ll draw in the tournament.

-While he tried to make it seem like he didn’t pay that much attention to seed speculating it was clear he was secretly paying a lot of attention – saying that of the over 100 (his estimate) pro/semi-pro tournament scenario generators they’ve looked at, most have them either as the ‘last 13 seed on the list’, or ‘one of the first 14 seeds on the list’.

-Despite some odd minor injuries towards the end of the season, he thought his team maintained exemplary health throughout the season and that everyone should be good to go for the tournament. He went on to say that this has been the case for two years and that the Bruins hadn’t had serious injuries since the first round Mercer game in the 2010 ASUN conference tournament when Jordan Campbell and Mick Hedgepeth got knocked out in the second half resulting in the Bruins losing a really close game.

All in all, It was a great lunch and it is good to see BU trying to build some community around people being serious fans. Here’s my unsolicited suggestion for improving the event: More in depth info on players and a review of recent successful &/or failed plays. When you get a bunch of people to take their lunch break to come nerd out about the University’s basketball program, a couple extra degrees of insight into the program is what will keep them coming back. That being said, it was a great luncheon and I would definitely want to go again. Like everyone else in the room that day, I want everything about this program to be great – and we’re well on our way.

Kyle R. Williams

  1. Good info there. Im sure the Byrd Man is exciting to get an opponent and off the media circut.

  2. that’s the second time this week i’ve heard byrd’s disappointment with attendance… i guess its not longer a running joke… it’s just sad… i really don’t want to lose this stellar basketball program because kids would rather play halo or worship songs in the bell tower…

  3. Oh, I never thought of playing Halo in the bell tower! KEWL. I didn’t know the Bruins hockey team moved to Nashville

  4. This just brings to light how sexist this blog is. COVER THE WOMEN’S TEAM!

  5. The previous three Hoop Hours featured extensive chalk talk and film breakdown from Coach Byrd and Coach Ezell.

  6. Was really hoping to see it at this one!

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