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Cinderella Watch: Belmont Ready to Make Some Noise in March?

Belmont has probably broken your heart and your bracket in March before, but does this year's edition of the Bruins have all the makings for a perfect Cinderella story?


Belmont Bruins

Ohio Valley Conference
Overall Record: 19-8
Conference Record: 10-2
RPI: 63
Key Wins: at North Carolina (27), vs Indiana State (56)
Worst Loss: Tennessee Tech (255)
Average RPI Win: 192
Average RPI Loss: 109
NCAA Tournament History: 6 Appearances (06,07,08,11,12,13), 0-6 all-time

This Season

We haven't heard much from Rick Byrd's Bruins after their tenacious early season start simmered down a bit with a four game skid where they lost road match ups to South Dakota State, Denver, Kentucky, and Indiana State. The Bruins have got that taste out of their mouth now by shooting out to a 10-2 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference and winning 11 of their last 13 games.

That four game skid and whiffs against Richmond and VCU have kept the Bruins out of at-large talk but they are still squarely in position for yet another conference title under Byrd. With four games left, Belmont has only one game against a winning OVC squad in 6-5 SIU-Edwardsville. Belmont has all but clinched the OVC East Division title and the double bye that comes along with it. Sure, Eastern Kentucky, Murray State, or Morehead State could give the Bruins trouble but they likely won't have to see them until the conference finals.

Key Player: J.J. Mann

In nearly 35 minutes per game Mann is now averaging 17.9 points, 4.6 assists, and 2.5 assists per outing. He's been on even more of a tear lately averaging over 24 points in his last five games. Mann is just the kind of senior lead that you need in March. He's played 130 games for Rick Byrd now and has scored 1,333 points. He's not Ian Clark, but he's still a hell of a player.

Why They Will Succeed in March

Can I just say Rick Byrd? Not many programs have the system and swagger of Belmont. The Bruins have a good mix of veteran players who have been there before and new blood. It's not mistake that a guy like Mann has been to the NCAA Tournament three times, but now it's time for them to win a game. Mann's leadership along with the scrappy guard play of Craig Bradshaw and Reece Chamberlein give them all the makings of a team that busts brackets on the first Thursday or Friday of the tournament. Belmont also has a trio of big bodies in Drew Windler, Evan Bradds, and Blake Jenkins that they can throw at you on any given night.

Right now Chris Dobbertean has the Bruins at a 13 seed playing the likes of a Virginia, Iowa, Iowa State, or Kentucky. Obviously any of those teams would be a challenge for Belmont, but some the Bruins could match up quite well against.