2012-2013 Overall Rank: #68
Conference Rank: #2 Ohio Valley
Belmont Team Page
Few teams have been as consistent as Belmont over the last decade, but a new challenge awaits Coach Rick Byrd and his Bruins. After winning 41 of their last 44 games in the Atlantic Sun, Belmont is off to the Ohio Valley Conference. The competition will be stiffer in their new home with the likes of Murray State, but this is a program that is not going anywhere any time soon. Coach Byrd always gets the best out of his players and it will not matter what conference they are in.
2011-12 Record: 27-8, 16-2
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rick Byrd
Coach Record: 545-284 at Belmont, 637-339 overall
Belmont does have some issues to sort out this season. The loss of big men Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders leaves the Bruins a very undersized team. Hedgepeth was the usual starter in the paint, but Coach Byrd started the season starting Hedgepeth and Saunders together. Hedgepeth finished up his senior season averaging 9.6 points and a team high 5.6 rebounds. Saunders, at 6-10 and 250 pounds, was the biggest body in the paint. Saunders also was the best defensive big man and was an even more consistent scorer in the paint, tallying 10.2 points per game. The losses do not end there. Drew Hanlen was another big part of the Bruins success over the last four years. He was one of the best shooters around, connecting on an impressive 48.2 percent of his attempts from long range. And it is not like Hanlen only took a few three-pointers; he shot nearly six per game.
The Bruins have a ton of talent in the backcourt, but now there is even more. Craig Bradshaw, a 6-3 guard, is a superb athlete who can fill up the stat sheet. Bradshaw can shoot, use his 6-3, 205 pound frame to attack the basket and pass extremely well. Belmont may not need him this year, but they might not be able to keep him off the floor either. Jeff Laidig is another guard who will battle for quality minutes from day one. Point guard Caleb Chowbay is a smart, tough floor general, but he is going to have to spend a little time learning from the quality point guards already on the roster.
Who to Watch:
Those quality point guards begin with senior Kerron Johnson. The much decorated Huntsville, Alabama product is the man who makes this potent offense tick. Johnson dished out 5.2 assists per game as a junior and is a superb drive and dish player. Johnson is a tireless defender too and will start the fast break after nabbing a steal. But Johnson is not just a passer; he led Belmont in scoring last season by tallying 13.8 points per game. He is not much of a shooter, at least compared to others on this squad, but he will get to the basket or pull up and knock down the mid-range jumper with ease. Reese Chamberlain will start off the year as the backup point guard, but it is Ian Clark joining Johnson that makes this one of the most potent backcourt in the nation. Clark is the shooter of the bunch and knocked down 40.5 percent of his attempts from long range. Clark is mostly a shooter, but at 6-3 he does have the size to get to the basket. Adam Barnes emerged as a solid roleplayer during his junior year in 2011-2012 and could see more playing time this year. Barnes may not score a lot, but he does play tough defense. Sophomore Spencer Turner is a fine shooter and has the potential to turn into a great shooter off of the bench after an injury shortened freshman campaign. J.J. Mann brings some size to the backcourt and the 6-6 wing is yet another experienced upperclassman. Mann tallied 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds last season and could even move to the four spot at times if Coach Byrd wants to play small. And playing small is a logical thing to do this season with all of the returning talent on the perimeter.
But logic can usually be thrown out the window when it comes to Belmont replacing players. Losing Hedgepeth and Saunders is an issue, but this is a program renowned for its ability to plug players into the lineup without much of a drop-off in production. There are talented players who have paid their dues and will now play a much bigger role in the frontcourt. Brandon Baker and Trevor Noack will battle it out for playing time in the post. Baker is a more versatile player than Noack, but he has yet to prove himself offensively. Noack has had plenty of starting experience during his previous three seasons in Nashville, Tennessee. Noack has the toughness and size to step right back into a starting role. Blake Jenkins managed to start 14 games last season and he made the most of that opportunity. Jenkins made huge strides late last season and the 6-7 forward is ready to become a star on this team. His 6.0 points and 3.1 rebounds per game do not do his season justice and he has plenty of athleticism and the ability to get up and down the floor. With players like Chad Lang and Holden Mobley, the depth and the talent in the frontcourt should be just fine without Hedgepeth and Saunders and that is bad news for the rest of the Ohio Valley Conference. The backcourt will do the rest.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Kerron Johnson, Senior, Guard, 13.8 points per game
Ian Clark, Senior, Guard, 12.7 points per game
J.J. Mann, Junior, Guard, 8.3 points per game
Blake Jenkins, Junior, Forward, 6.0 points per game
Trevor Noack, Senior, Forward, 2.1 points per game