The Byrd Cage

Posts Tagged ‘asun’

Remembering the A-Sun, Moving to OVC

In Features, Game Posts on August 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm

For the next two months, the Byrd Cage will be previewing Belmont’s new OVC opponents.  We’ll introduce you to the mascots, the history, the players- pretty much anything you need to know to get ready for the upcoming season.

With Belmont facing reigning All-American Isaiah Canaan of Murray State this year, it prompted thought on who were the best individual players Belmont faced in the Atlantic Sun era.

This list may surprise some, especially considering that talented, accomplished players like Jonathan Rodriguez (Campbell), Courtney Pigram (ETSU), and Torrey Craig (USC Upstate) did not crack the Top 10. The list was defined as ‘The Top 10 Toughest Opposing Players’ during the Belmont A-Sun era (2002-2012).

The Byrd Cage welcomes Greg Sage for a special collaboration.  Sage has been with Belmont University for the past eight years as the Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations.  He also teams with the Voice of the Bruins, Kevin Ingram, as color analyst for the Bruin Sports  Network.

Top 10 Toughest Opposing Players during Belmont’s Atlantic Sun Era (2002-2012)

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“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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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!

Breaking: Lipscomb “Suspends Permanently” More Players

In Game Posts on March 1, 2012 at 8:32 am

According to Lumination Online, the Lipscomb University Athletic Department announced on Wednesday that Bisons basketball players Damarius Smith and Marvin Williams were “suspended from the team permanently”.

This, of course, comes after the recent dismissal of the best 3-point shooter in the nation, Jordan Burgason.  The details have not been released as to why Burgason was expelled, or even as to why both Smith and Williams were suspended permanently.  Lumination Online also mentions Head Coach Scott Sanderson’s comment about Williams last suspension in the Belmont game, “It was just a discipline issue.  We handled it and are moving forward.”

It must be worrisome enough to fret over grammatical issues for the Bisons, and now with a major discipline issue- Lipscomb’s basketball program looks to be in the pits.

“But it’s only 3 players!  You are taking this too far,” some may be thinking.  But the fact is, I haven’t taken it far enough.

Lumination Online goes as far in the article above to mention the total of Lipscomb Bisons who left or have been suspended this year alone, “Milos Kleut, Zach Brown, Brett Stall, Stephen Hurt, Robert Boyd, Jordan Burgason, Damarius Smith and Marvin Williams.”

With a bench last night of four players, the Lipscomb Bisons still showed an impressive stand against a Mercer home crowd, taking the game to the final minutes.  But the story here is not resilience, it isn’t about stepping up, and it definitely isn’t about rose-colored glasses.

It is about a problem.

As Belmont University joins the Ohio Valley Conference next year and leaves their conference rival behind, Lipscomb will do well to put away the measuring stick.  This season has proved for once and for all that the difference in the schools measurement is a ruler and a yardstick.  The days of Don Meyer are long gone Bisons, and the Scott Sanderson “barely above .500 with one regular season A-Sun championship and no NCAA tournament berths” are, simply put, not cutting it.  The shambles of a department led by a coach who has a barely above winning record and has clearly shown he cannot control his men should be enough for Bisons fans.  How much worse can it get?  It simply cannot get worse.

The objective fact in all this mess?  Lipscomb University men’s basketball showed this season, once and for all, that Belmont’s move to another conference might just be the best thing for that other little school down the Boulevard with a basketball team.

-Brett McReynolds

Belmont Gets To Semi-Finals; 76-62 Win Over Jacksonville

In Game Posts on February 29, 2012 at 4:21 pm

As Ian Clark iced his ankle at the end of the bench, Adam Barnes took the floor with the rest of the usual starters; Johnson, Hedgepeth, Hanlen, and Jenkins.

With Kerron’s back spasms worrying Bruin fans and Jenkins’ sitting out last game as well, a very unsettling feeling made its way over me before the game started.

But it seemed to be business as usual for the Bruins.  Up by 15 at one point, the lead felt like it would get away from Jacksonville, but the Dolphins kept battling the Ian Clark-less Bruins.   Shooting 35% from the 3, the Bruins delivered a nail-biting game in the last 10 minutes.  Cutting the lead to just 7 with five minutes left, the Dolphins proved they would not go away, but Kerron’s clutch three-point basket at 4:21 started to squelch the momentum.  Johnson ultimately showered 19 points against the tricky Jacksonville defense as Belmont got its win, 76-62.  

But the game just looked sloppy overall to the avid Bruin fan.  The score simply did not equal the true feel of the game.  While only 10 turnovers were committed by Belmont, the sloppiness came in the stat-line of 23-58 from the field.  Thankfully, our consistency came from the foul line.  The Bruins got there 31 times and made 24.  Scott Saunders scored 8 of his 18 points from that line and we doubled their offensive rebounds.

After the game, Associate Head Coach Brian Ayers spoke with Kevin Ingram from the Bruin Sports Network, “We did enough to win.  The bad turnovers and decision making is something we have to correct if we want to win on Saturday.”  He also spoke about the multiple defenses Johnson faced throughout the game.  “You have got to give Jacksonville a lot of credit.  They mixed their defenses up.  Triangle 2, zone, man- but with a guy like Kerron who can beat his man, it was good to get him back in there.  But it was tough without Ian. “

Kerron also talked about his clutch three-pointer at the end of the game.  “Alot of my shots had been going in and out, but teamates kept saying keep trying… and I stepped up and made  a shot when I had to.”  He also spoke about Ian Clark’s absence.  “Everybody knew we had to step up our game… it was a big loss for us.  We are hoping he gets better.”

Belmont will play University of North Florida or East Tennessee State University on Friday.  Tip-off will be at 6 ET.