The Byrd Cage

The UCF Holiday Classic

In Game Posts on December 27, 2012 at 8:22 am

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The Bruins entered the holiday break finishing a 2-1 three game stretch, against what was easily the most daunting section of their schedule, by defeating South Dakota State 76-49 with a scintillating 2nd half performance. While carrying momentum is nice, the break was well deserved. After a grueling trip to the west coast and true road games at VCU and Kansas, Byrd’s squad undoubtedly needed some time away (because let’s be honest, a break for finals doesn’t count).

The Bruins come out of their time away with a new venture for the Belmont basketball program; a trip to the UCF Holiday Classic in Orlando, Florida. This weekend tournament features 3 other teams besides the Bruins and offers a simple semifinal/consolation/final format. Belmont will be joined by the hosts, the Knights of Central Florida, the Boston University Terriers, and the Howard Bison.

 

The Bruins will open with Boston University, a team that shares a common opponent with Belmont, Northeastern. Northeastern, who beat the Bruins in what will go down as the worse loss of the year for Belmont, beat Boston in the opening game for both teams, 65-64. The Terriers come into this matchup with a 5-6 record having won 5 of their last 6 games after staring the season on a 5 game losing streak.

 

Boston is led by six foot junior guard D.J. Irving who averages just over 15 points per game, but shoots less than 40% from the field while taking over a quarter of the teams available shots. The Bruins will see plenty of usage from Irving, but may be more interested in checking 6-5 junior swing man Travis Robinson, a 52% shooter from behind the arc and the Terrier’s most efficient scorer. Nobody on the roster stands taller than 6-7, which should help mitigate some of the Bruins woes to this point in the year.

 

Here at the Byrd Cage, we have long harped on the Bruins propensity to give up numerous offensive rebounds, as well as their giving mood when it comes to putting other teams on the free throw line. Against the Terriers, it will be weakness against weakness. Boston doesn’t even crack the top 300 in the country when it comes to grabbing offensive rebounds or getting to the free throw line. Whether it’s due to a lack of height, lack of effort, or a myriad of other things, something will have to give in this matchup.

 

The Bruins will continue to look to the sharp shooting Ian Clark who, despite a recent “drop-off” is still shooting over 50% and ranks in the top 10 in the country in effective field goal percentage, averaging over 17 point a game. Trevor Noack has been nothing less than impressive lately scoring 24 and 19 points respectively in his last two outings and continues to shoot over 40% from downtown making him dual threat offensive player and someone to be accounted for.

 

The winner of the Belmont/Boston matchup will take on the winner of UCF/Howard. Let’s just say if the hosts lose to Howard then the basketball program should be reevaluated in Central Florida. Howard comes in with a 3-10 record and a truly unique ability to keep the ball out of their own basket. The Bison average a shade under 55 points per game offensively, good enough for 342nd in the country and are doing their best to shoot under 40% from the field as a team, though they are not there yet. We could go through more numbers, but it’s not worth your time (or ours for that matter).

 

The Central Florida Knights are another story. For comparisons sake, the Knights are a more efficient version of Middle Tennessee. Having said that, the Blue Raiders defeated UCF earlier this year giving us a small indicator to work with. The Knights are led by senior big man Keith Clanton who averages 17 points per game and shoots in the neighborhood of 70% from inside the arc, where the majority of his attempts come from. Central Florida also gets big contributions from Isaiah Sykes who seems to control the action for the Knights averaging almost 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists per game.

 

As a team, the Knights shoot it well (a top 10 team in the country in effective field goal %) and get to the line. However, they are also prone to big turnover games and don’t rebound as proficiently as teams with similar size. Outside of guards Calvin Newell and Daiquan Walker, the Knights are 6’5” or better across every contributor on the roster. The height discrepancy will be nothing new the Bruins. Despite their size and length, the Knights are not an incredibly effective defensive team, but do make their opponents earn points as they rarely send teams to the free throw line.

We will be watching (actually probably listening) intently this weekend as the Bruins embark on their post Christmas break portion of the season. These are the last non-conference games for the Bruins prior to the start of the conference season and will be the last they play all year outside of ESPN’s Bracketbusters weekend and that potential post season birth. 

 

-Jono

 

____________________

 

Belmont tips off against Boston University tomorrow at 8:30 pm in Orlando, Florida.  You can listen on 104.5 The Zone.

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