#90 Belmont Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Belmont Bruins

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #90
Conference Rank: #1 Ohio Valley

Belmont Team Page#90 Belmont Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Belmont Basketball Tickets

If the OVC wasn’t going to get two teams into the NCAA Tournament last year, it just isn’t going to happen. Belmont beat a ranked Murray State squad in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament final to earn the league’s automatic bid. The Bruins were not done there. This is a program that wants to do more than just reach the tournament; they want to win a game. And they made #2 seed Virginia sweat it out for a good 39 and a half minutes. With major changes going on at Murray State, the OVC will not get as much publicity this season, but that will not make the Bruins any less of a dangerous team in March.

2014-15 Record: 22-11, 11-5
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rick Byrd
Coach Record: 619-312 at Belmont, 711-367 overall

Who’s Out:
Four starters return, but the one who departs is the toughest to replace. Point guard Reece Chamberlain dished out an impressive 6.0 assists per game while only committing 2.5 turnovers. He also led the team with 1.7 steals. Replacing somebody who can take care of the ball and find his teammates as well as Chamberlain has done will not be a simple task. Coach Rick Byrd relied heavily on his starters last season and only six players averaged over 10.1 minutes per game. There was a big group of regulars after those six though and three of them are gone. Caleb Chowbay, Holden Mobley and Spencer Turner had small roles for the Bruins, but sometimes they were important roles.

Who’s In:
Only three teams in Division I made more three-pointers per game than Belmont and the Bruins now have a few more shooting options. Freshman shooting guard Michael Benkert and wings Alex Martin and Dylan Windler can all knock down shots. At 6-7 and 185 pounds, Windler is the biggest of the bunch and perhaps will prove to be the best too. The Hoosier is a superb scorer from anywhere on the floor and can help out on the glass too. Sam Landrith and Seth Adelsperer hope to add depth in the frontcourt. Adelsperer is an interesting prospect for Belmont. He is a rim protector and a quality rebounder. At 6-11 and 215 pounds, he can get up and down the floor enough to keep up with the rest of the team. His scoring may take some time to develop, but this team does not need scorers, they need frontcourt depth and Adelsperger should be able to provide it.

Who to Watch:
This team will revolve around the five returning players who saw significant playing time last year. It starts with superstar senior Craig Bradshaw. He averaged 18.3 points per game as a junior and knocked down 42.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Bradshaw will take a lot of three-pointers, but he does a lot of damage inside the arc as well. On top of all of his points, Bradshaw added 3.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 3.8 rebounds per game. Taylor Barnette is another great shooter. The 6-3 junior hit 84 three-pointers, surpassing Bradshaw by two made three-pointers. Barnette is basically a pure shooter, but now an upperclassman, he could start looking to attack the basket more often. Evan Bradds emerged as the team’s interior scoring threat and will fill that role again in 2015-2016. He averaged 14.2 points per game and easily led the team with 7.2 rebounds. Amanze Egekeze had a very promising freshman campaign. He was thrown into the fire and responded by earning 24 starts and averaging 5.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. It would be nice if he was tougher on the glass, but Bradds is going to eat up most of those rebounds anyway. Nick Smith was the first player off of the bench last year. The 6-8 junior should provide quality depth for both Bradds and Egekeze again this season.

Final Projection:
Along with the newcomers, Belmont boasts a slew of other players looking to increase their minutes. Austin Luke and Burton Sampson are on the perimeter, Jeff Laidig is on the wing, Josh Lester and Mack Mercer are at forward and Tyler Hadden at center. The best of the bunch could be Mercer. The 6-9, 225 pound sophomore was quite productive in his 6.5 minutes per game as a freshman. With only five experienced players on the roster and none of them being a true point guard, Coach Byrd has some things to figure out. Bradshaw can handle the ball, but he is better suited to be off the ball and worry about scoring. Luke is a point guard, but averaged just 4.2 minutes per game during his redshirt freshman campaign. Does he go from 4.2 minutes to a starter? Or will Coach Byrd prefer to have the ball in Bradshaw’s hands and play a little bigger with Nick Smith starting at small forward? Or will one of the newcomers on the wing step up and take the spot? There are options and you can be sure Coach Byrd will figure out his rotation pretty quickly, especially since the team got some extra practices in with an overseas trip this summer.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Craig Bradshaw, Senior, Guard, 18.3 points per game
Taylor Barnette, Junior, Guard, 10.6 points per game
Nick Smith, Junior, Forward, 6.8 points per game
Evan Bradds, Junior, Forward, 14.2 points per game
Amanze Egekeze, Sophomore, Forward, 5.4 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 74.2 (30th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 70.6 (280, 11)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.6 (24, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 45.2 (290, 11)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 10.0 (4, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.0 (46, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.2 (170, 6)
Rebound Margin: 0.4 (177, 7)
Assists Per Game: 15.3 (25, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.7 (275, 9)


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