#111 Belmont Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview

Belmont Bruins

2013-2014 Overall Rank: #111
Conference Rank #2 OVC

Belmont Team Page#111 Belmont Men's Basketball 2014-2015 PreviewBuy Belmont Basketball Tickets

Belmont fell one game short last season. The Bruins started out the season 8-2, including a win over North Carolina on the Tar Heels home floor, and then followed that by going 14-2 in the OVC, but they lost in the finals of the conference tournament, sending them to the NIT. Belmont put in a nice performance there, advancing to the quarterfinals, but missing the NCAA tournament will have the Bruins looking for redemption this season. Long time head coach Rick Byrd will look to lead Belmont back to the NCAA Tournament, and if he can, it will be Belmont’s fourth trip in the last five seasons.

2013-14 Record: 26-10, 14-2
2013-14 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Rick Byrd
Coach Record: 597-301 at Belmont (689-356 Overall)

Who’s Out:
The entire frontcourt is gone from last seasons starting lineup, including last seasons OVC player of the year, J.J. Mann. Mann ended his impressive career by leading the team in scoring, 18.9 points per game, rebounding, 4.8 per game, and free throw percentage, just over 87 percent. The small forward made a team high 89 three pointers last season, including five in Belmont’s upset of UNC. He leaves a big hole to fill, as do forwards Drew Windler and Blake Jenkins. Both players started every game they played in last season, and were key parts of the frontcourt production. Windler averaged 10.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while Jenkins averaged 8.1 points and 4.7 rebounds a contest. Windler’s long range shooting ability will be missed, as he led the team in three-point field goal percentage at 46 percent, for players who attempted more than 13 long range shots. Also gone from last season is reserve center Chad Lang, who transferred to Lipscomb for his final season of eligibility after averaging 2.5 points and 1.0 rebounds per game in just under five minutes of action per game.

Who’s In:
There are lots of new faces for Belmont this season, as seven players are eligible to play for the Bruins for the first time. Byrd brings in two freshmen forwards and has five players who are eligible after redshirting last season. Mack Mercer likely has the best chance to play early out of the bunch. The three-star prospect was an All-State player in Indiana last season after averaging 19.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game. With both Jenkins and Windler gone, he could step in to a vacant starting spot in the frontcourt. He is joined by another high school recruit, Amanze Egekeze, who averaged 18.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a senior in Illinois last season. Virginia transfer Taylor Barnette becomes eligible in the backcourt and he could see some quality playing time this season. Barnette averaged 2.6 points per game, playing in 26 games as a freshman for the Cavaliers, and was second on the team in three-point shooting, making just over 43 percent of his attempts. With the team’s top two three-point shooters in Mann and Windler gone, Barnette could provide a much needed boost. Tyler Hadden, a 6-foot-10 center, and Austin Luke, a 6-foot-3 point guard, are both eligible, as are walk-ons Burton Sampson and Josh Lester.

Who to Watch:
Belmont will need big production out of their backcourt, as six of the eight returning players are guards. Good thing for the Bruins is they have arguably the best returning backcourt in the OVC. Senior Reece Chamberlain and junior Craig Bradshaw are the only two starters back from last year’s team and both can expect to see big minutes, as they both played over 1,000 last season. Chamberlain is the floor general for the Bruins, and he led the team in assists, with 5.5 per game, to go along with 10.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last season. Bradshaw complements him well with his scoring ability, as he averaged 15.7 point per game, shooting over 81 percent from the free throw line and just under 40 percent from three-point range. Four other guards who saw action in at least 27 games in 2013-2014 are back and will add valuable depth, led by Caleb Chowbay. Chowbay appeared in all 36 games, earning two starts, averaging 3.0 points and 1.2 assists per game. He will be joined by Stuart Turner, Jeff Laidig and Holden Mobley, all of whom averaged over five minutes per game last season.  

Final Projection:
While guard play will be the strength, the play of Evan Bradds and Nick Smith will likely be the deciding factor to whether or not Belmont can repeat last season’s success. They are the lone returning frontcourt players back from last season and will be counted on heavily. Bradds had a breakout year as a freshman, averaging 8.8 points and 4.1 rebounds, while Smith will try and follow in his footsteps after averaging 3.0 points and 1.1 rebounds in his first season. This is not unfamiliar territory for Belmont, as in each of the last two seasons, the Bruins have had to replace multiple all-conference caliber starters. In both seasons, Belmont has gone 14-2 in conference play and been in the running for an NCAA bid, making it in 2013 and falling just short last year. Byrd has a proven track record of finding players to fill in the holes of the team from the previous season and this year should be no different. If all goes according to the plan, Belmont should be in contention for the NCAA bid out of the OVC at seasons end.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Reece Chamberlain, Senior, Guard, 10.9 points per game
Craig Bradshaw, Junior, Guard, 15.7 last season
Evan Bradds, Sophomore, Forward, 8.8 points per game
Nick Smith, Sophomore, Forward, 3.0 points per game
Mack Mercer, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.9 (18th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 73.9 (272, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 49.8 (3, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 46.0 (279, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.0 (8, 2)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 39.2 (17, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 73.9 (41, 2)
Rebound Margin: -1.5 (242, 7)
Assists Per Game: 15.9 (14, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.9 (234, 6)


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