The Byrd Cage

Lessons Learned Thus Far

In Game Posts on January 14, 2013 at 8:36 am

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As I sat in the Curb Dome and watched a complete shellacking of our new Ohio Valley Conference opponents on Thursday and Saturday, it occurred to me that a lot has changed since I sat in that seat in early 2012. Even with all those changes, there are still some things that remain the same.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on the things that we’ve learned so far about this brave new world of Belmont Basketball and what we have yet to anticipate.

  1. This team is good, but maybe not that good. But at the same time…possibly really good. Losing two players like Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders would be detrimental to almost any team in the nation. In years past, I always enjoyed when Byrd would go “small” and play Trevor at center. Now, small is the new normal. To the unconscious observer, the lack of size might be a huge problem. However, we’ve learned that Trevor playing the post allows even more offensive versatility and Rick Byrd Magic Hoop Time than ever before. Trevor scored 30 points against SEMO Thursday night. Did you know that neither Mick nor Scott ever scored 30? Ever. To be fair, there is a litany of reasons why that comparison might be unfair, but facts are facts. The downside to Belmont’s smaller lineup is that we will be out-rebounded…a lot…eight times in seventeen games so far. As long as the Bruins keep winning though, who cares about the rebounds right?
  2. We don’t have a ton of depth. These ain’t the days where Coach could swap the five on the floor for the five on the bench without missing a step. We are particularly vulnerable around the basket. Baker got assaulted in the face at one point Thursday night and without the three man rotation between Baker, Blake and Trevor it was clear that the latter two were gassed within minutes. Coach Byrd was forced to go to Big Chad before he wanted to it seemed. Thankfully the team had amassed a comfortable lead by that point – about 6 minutes in – but in a closer game, that lack of depth might prove to be troublesome. Lack of depth is not a problem at guard however. This is a perfect time to acknowledge Craig Bradshaw. The young man has a quick first step and handles the ball very well. Not that I’m excited about losing Kerron – Senior night is going to be rough this year – but Bradshaw should be a lot of fun to watch over the next few years.
  3. Ian is a man on fire. 62 points on 29 attempts is ridiculous. At almost 19 points per game, shooting almost 49% from beyond the arc, Ian is the clear offensive leader of this team. He’s also negating his man on the defensive end. If Ian can keep this up he may be on track for one of the better individual seasons in Belmont history.
  4. So far the OVC seems a lot like the ASun. I knew the OVC wasn’t the most competitive conference in the country but after four conference games it seems to be same story, different day. This won’t last though. Keep in mind Murray State has maybe the best player in the nation in Isaiah Canaan. I cannot wait for the Kerron v. Canaan (or Ian v. Isaiah) matchup in a few weeks. But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. Belmont has Eastern Kentucky, the team that just beat Murray, and Tennessee State this week. If Belmont can navigate the next couple weeks of conference play, all eyes will be on the matchup with Murray State on February 7 (7pm CST, ESPNU).
  5. This may not be the right time to bring this up, but there’s zero reason to play Lipscomb twice per year. Especially when they don’t show up to the Curb; that includes the team and the fans. That game is supposed to be one of the great sports events in Nashville and both games were terribly lackluster this year. I’m not saying we’re never, ever, ever getting back together but let’s just cut back to one game a year.

This certainly is not meant to be an exhaustive list. There are many things I’ve either overlooked or ignored (how would Belmont fare against VCU in Nashville? Maybe going to Alaska the week of Thanksgiving wasn’t the best idea? How much will our top 25 RPI suffer between now and March?).

If Belmont continues to play in conference like they have thus far, I see no reason why this team shouldn’t contend for a conference title and another trip to the NCAA Tournament. It’s too early to start talking about two bids for the OVC or anything like that. The best thing the Bruins can do now is continue to win.

-Matt Sherrill

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Belmont’s next game is at home, Thursday against Eastern Kentucky. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

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