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Basketball preview: Paradise Jam

The Belmont men’s basketball team is heading to Washington, D.C. for its season-opening tournament as one of four teams participating in the Paradise Jam.

The first game will take place on Thanksgiving Day against Howard University followed by two games against George Mason University and Northeastern University, respectively.

Prior to the team’s participation in the Paradise Jam, the Bruins were set to play in the Orlando Invitational, a high-profile tournament many power-five programs play in each year.

The tournament was canceled this year because the NCAA couldn’t find a safe method to work around the dangers of COVID-19.

The Orlando Invitational is a tournament planned a few years in advance, which gives each school a major platform to make its case ahead of the season. This is a major loss for Belmont’s program, as it is unsure when or if it will even get the opportunity to play in such a high profile event.

Although this loss is a disappointment to the team and its fans, Coach Casey Alexander is looking forward to getting his guys on the floor no matter what games they play.

“Our priority was to get the games, period,” said Alexander. ”The curveball in Orlando was a tough one, that was an event we’ve been looking forward to for several years now. When we lost it, we flipped the page and tried our best to find a good alternative.”

Alexander, though, is more than content with the opportunity to represent Belmont’s program in Washington, D.C. and showcase his team’s talent to begin the season.

“We are grateful for Paradise Jam folks and the opportunity to play in Washington, D.C.,” said Alexander.

The Bruins first game in the Paradise Jam is against a Howard program that has been on a steady decline the past two years. In the 2018-19 season, it finished its season tied for third place in its respective conference.

By the end of the 2019-20 season, led by first year coach Kenny Blakenly, Howard was placed last with a losing record and an early loss in its conference tournament.

The following day, the Bruins will take on its second opponent, George Mason University. Much like Howard, George Mason was a struggling program last season.

Although it finished 17-15 overall, its performance inside the Atlantic 10 brought George Mason down to twelfth in its conference.

Belmont’s third and final game of the tournament against Northeastern will be a more difficult feat to accomplish. For the past few years, Northeastern has been a team in the Colonial Athletic Association that were contenders for a bid in the national tournament each year.

Winning half of its games last season, Northeastern was placed sixth ahead of their conference tournament. Despite being ranked that low, the Bruins made an impressive run in its respective tournament, until losing to the team at the No. 1 spot in the final game of the tournament.

Coming off a championship season, the Bruins are beginning the 2019-20 season with an unknown rotation but many different options to choose from. As the Paradise Jam plays out, the team and its fans will know more of what the season will look like.

The Bruins will kick off with their season opener on Thanksgiving Day against Howard University. Tip off is slated for 4 p.m. 

This article written by Julieann Challacombe.

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