Updated: Apr 22, 2022
Even though Belmont’s name wasn’t called on selection Sunday, the Bruins still have more basketball to play.
The men’s team accepted an invitation to the NCAA’s second-tier tournament, which presents an opportunity for programs to play in the prestigious Madison Square Garden if they make it to the title game.
The Bruins are facing pressure to rebound, but before that becomes a reality, they will have to win three games in the National Invitational Tournament.
Luckily, they won’t have to travel far for their first matchup.
The Bruins will head down West End Boulevard to Memorial Gymnasium to face rival No. 4 seed Vanderbilt University on Tuesday night at 6 p.m.
“You can really see a renewed sense of excitement around here now,” Belmont head coach Casey Alexander said.
No doubt the Bruins are looking forward to postseason play after losing their shot at March Madness.
Despite the disappointment of not making the big dance this year, Belmont’s players and coaches are eager to face off against their next opponent. The Belmont-Vanderbilt matchup comes after the Bruins failed to secure an invite to the NIT in the 2020-21 season.
“I think we’ve earned the right to be here. We’re all disappointed we’re not in the NCAA tournament,” Alexander said. “We all understand what a privilege it is to be playing. We’re excited and we’re really looking forward to it.”
After falling short 53-51 to Morehead State in the Ohio Valley Conference semifinals, Belmont looks to get its groove against Vanderbilt — a team that, as of late, has impressed.
Heading into Tuesday’s contest, Vanderbilt will come in hot after putting up a solid showing in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Falling short to Texas A&M University in the second round, the Commodores will look to rebound.
Led by first-team All-SEC guard Scottie Pippen Jr. and forward Jordan Smith, Vanderbilt posts a 17-16 record heading into the NIT.
Pippen will be a target for Belmont’s defense, but coach Alexander realizes the Vanderbilt team won’t be a one-man show.
“He’s gonna get his, we know that. We have to try and eliminate the easy ones for him,” Alexander said. “No good teams are a one-man band. We’ve gotta be really tough-minded defensively.”
The Commodores notably defeated the University of Alabama in the SEC Tournament.
The 25-7 Bruins realize that Tuesday’s game not only means a lot for their program but also for the community.
“It’s a big game for us, and a big game for the city,” said graduate student Grayson Murphy who grew up watching both Belmont and Vanderbilt play.
With a win, Belmont would advance to the second round to play the victors of the University of Dayton and University of Toledo match.
Taking a 5-minute drive down the street, the Belmont men will be ready to rumble when Tuesday night rolls around, Alexander said.
“We’re as ready as we’ve ever been for a game,” he said. “This game is important to us with it being against another school in Nashville, one that we really respect.”
PHOTO: Applause from the bench during men’s basketball’s Feb. 10 game versus Morehead State University. Jessica Mattsson / Belmont Vision
This article was written by Landen Secrest.