The Byrd Cage

Hoop Hour #2

In Game Posts on January 8, 2014 at 9:41 am

Editors Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the practice, Belmont holds an event once a month throughout the basketball season called ‘Hoop Hour’ wherein guests eat lunch [Sodexo] whilst beholding coach Newbauer and Coach Byrd breakdown game footage of their respective teams.

In this month’s edition Belmont served chicken sandwiches. Typically, you’d kind of worry about the quality of chicken you’d be eating at an event like this. But all I could think of as I downed the giant ciabatta-bunned sandwich was the fact that the US is one of the few developed countries to allow  manufacturers to put Potassium Bromate in commercial baked goods. Isn’t that wild? See? Now you can’t complain that we don’t teach you anything.

On to sports guy things.

Rick started off by briefly running down the many events that have transpired since Hoop Hour #1 in December. At that time, The Bruins were 8-2 and had just beaten MTSU at the Murphy Center – without two of its starting guards (Reece & Craig were injured). After the win, the team was in the midst of a seven-day break before it was scheduled to wallop DII Fairfield University. Instead, Fairfield ended up being unable to travel to Nashville due to an ice storm that now seems totally weak-sauce compared to the Polar Vortex.

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“All well” fans confidently chuckled at the time. But…did this rescheduled game create a detrimentally long (11 day) break for the boys in blue? Coach seemed to allude to the idea that the Fairfield game was intended to give the Bruins a ‘running start’ before playing a string of  nasty, playoff-caliber teams (South Dakota State, Denver, Kentucky, & Indiana State).

What would have happened if Belmont had warmed up after their 7 day hiatus with Fairfield instead of SDSU? A team, Coach reminded us, that was ready to exact revenge on the Bruins who had handily beat the Nate Wolters lead team last year.

We will definitely never know. But I’d guess it wouldn’t have mattered that much because we still had the injury bug plaguing the team. What we do know is that Coach Byrd said the team traveled to the ever-frigid South Dakota tundra and played, “like they were  playing outside.”

…and on they went to Denver. Rick reflected on the fact that his teams of late, rarely get blown out. He suspected the Kansas game was probably the last blowout the Bruins suffered – until Denver beat them by 28. Denver was playing great at the time and he thought the Bruins played better than they had in South Dakota but were still unable to turn a corner. Both the SDSU and Denver games were played without Belmont’s Reece Chamberlain. Coach Byrd said there’s no way to know what happens when your team has to play with men down – but there was no excuse for the sometimes purposeless and poor play put forth by the Bruins.

Having lost back-to-back games, Rick joked that traveling to Rupp Arena was not exactly the ideal place for his team to regain its confidence. However, he said the Bruins could have won the game if they could have figured out a way to guard, ‘that Randle kid who no-one can seem to guard’ who put up 29pts and 10 rebs against Belmont at Rupp Arena.

Coach didn’t say much about the Indiana State game (the 4th consecutive loss for the Bruins) other than noting the team’s inability to play an entire 40 minute game.

When the Bruins returned home they were met by a Jacksonville State team who some nonconference record troll  Joe Lunardi,  had picked to win the OVC this year. Coach mentioned that Belmont easily forgets how big of a target they play with on their backs – especially in the OVC.  Regardless, the Bruins were able to beat the Gamecocks in what was a pretty discouraging game to watch.

Then came the ultimate reality check: the Tennessee Tech game. Coach admitted the Bruins are not where they want to be, they are not sound, and they are not as good defensively as they were in years past. “Our teams have been good at winning the games we were supposed to win. This team has to get better.”

Rick quickly transitioned into showing the room a highlight reel of a series of set plays the Bruins run. The plays revolve around setting screens, slipping screens, and all sorts of general misdirection. It was awesome. Rick praised Craig’s ability to drive the ball into the paint but commented that Tennessee Tech did a good job of stepping up into the gap and preventing him from getting close to the basket towards the end of Thursday’s game. He added that if Craig can get a couple of good strides in at the top of the gap, he’s most likely going to get to the bucket. He also praised Reece’s ability to seemingly set perfect screens in the many set plays the Bruins run. For me, personally, a highlight of the plays that were broken down was an inbound-play from the offensive baseline that any seasoned Bruin fan or coach with access to any reasonable amount of film would be familiar with. I have maybe seen this play 1 million times over the past several years. When the inbounder’s defender decides to guard the basket instead of the in-bounder, the inbound pass goes in to a player at the top of the key while the post players screen the in-bounder’s defender. The second pass goes back to the in-bounder who has popped in-bounds and can usually shoot an uncontested three in the corner. We’ve seen it work countless times, but it was cool to hear Rick explain why it works.

At the end of the film reel, Rick quipped that the Bruins scored more points in that set of clips than they did in the last 30 minutes of the Tennessee Tech game. People laughed with a dark sadness in their hearts.

He said, “our team knows where we are falling short.” He went on to guess that Belmont probably had one of the top 25 hardest non-conference schedules in the country. Having gone 10-6 through that stretch Rick said, “I’ll take it.” What he said he wouldn’t take was how the team has been playing. He noted that Belmont has a talented team but unlike previous years, this team isn’t so much more talented than any other OVC team they’d face.

Rick guessed that SEMO, who the Bruins play Thursday in Cape Girardeau, is probably the most talented offense in the OVC and was picked to win the western division with Murray State.

Despite all the nay-saying, Coach remarked that the team had a great practice yesterday coming off the shaky Tech win and felt confident that fans would be seeing the Bruins begin to play better basketball. “We’ll play better on Thursday.”

Next, Rick gave an enlightening health update. JJ had in the past weeks strained a muscle in his shooting arm but was able to play through it. In the next game (it was unclear which games these were) JJ suffered what the team assumed was merely a painful Charlie Horse. Instead of the pain going away slowly, the injury lingered causing  team trainer Paul Malloy to guess that JJ might have a slight crack in his bone. Coach assured us that JJ was getting better (he scored 14 points against Tech but has looked off) – although he and several other players were quite sick this weekend. He added that Drew was sick for the past two games and Reece is still missing the occasional practice due to pain in his still-healing foot.  Paul Malloy has assured the coaches that playing on it does not exacerbate the risk of him breaking it again.

Rick concluded by saying this program has been spoiled in recent years with a regularly lopsided margin of victory. This is not going to be the case this year. Instead, this team is going to have to grind out a lot of wins and fight through fatigue and foul issues, ‘but we can win the rest of our games if we play how Belmont teams are supposed to play.’

@kylerwilliams

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  1. Fantastic Blog. I check it every day. I couldn’t make Hoop Hour yesterday, so this was a PERFECT recap. Thank you for doing what you do for us fans. Keep up the great work.

  2. thanks @straitjunky! Be sure to follow us on twitter as well!

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