We have made it to the last week of the the Ohio Valley Conference regular season, and for Belmont it has been quite the ride. Both teams suffered some bumps in the road early, but have found their stride late in the season to add some excitement into the life of Bruin fans. Let’s get into the last weekly grades of this season.
Belmont Men’s Grade: A
I am going to contradict myself and grade this team based on something I have seen over the course of the conference season.
This team at the start of conference play was drastically different than the team Belmont fans have seen in recent weeks.
Conference season opened with a humbling loss to SIUE. The team looked disjointed and disinterested. They were a step slow on rotations, and the chemistry was not there.
From that point on they rattled off five straight wins, but none of them looked as convincing as years prior.
Questions about who the teams go to closer surfaced over and over again. Questions surrounding the team’s commitment to play great defense were evident. Lastly, questions of how this team aims to compete at a national level were discussed to no end.
All of this led to the pivotal week four match against the best teams in the conference Murray State and Austin Peay. Both of which were away games and measuring sticks to see where this young Bruins side stacked up.
They went on to drop both games, and it looked as though the Bruins had lost out on its chance to secure another first place finish in the regular season.
Then we saw this team start to adjust and start playing for eachother again.
They seemed to recommit themselves to the defensive end of the floor, and the three-headed offensive trifecta of Nick Muszynski, Tyler Scanlon and Adam Kunkel began to gel.
The team won eight straight games, featuring two wins over Murray State and Austin Peay at the Curb Event Center.
Unafraid, they played top-level basketball. And with some help from the top of the OVC cannibalizing itself the Bruins sit in position to reclaim the number one seed.
They are a top 10 offensive team in the country at this point, and seem to have all the major kinks worked out headed into the last two games of the season at tournament play.
This Week at a Glance:
The Bruins will be playing in The Curb Event Center one last time on Thursday against Tennessee Tech. They will follow that up with a Saturday match at Tennessee State.
If they win both it will come down to the last day of the season, and some events that are out of their direct control to determine seeding.
Belmont women’s grade: A
In honor of the final weekly grade of the 2020 conference season, I will be discussing the fantastic progression of this women’s team as they head into the last week of conference play.
The beginning of the conference season for the Bruins showed consistency in only two areas: defensive efforts and Ellie Harmeyer.
If you follow Belmont women’s basketball, you know exactly how much Harmeyer has meant to this team all season.
She has lead in points, rebounds and minutes all eight weeks of conference play, and lets not forget to mention she’s tagged 20 double-doubles in that time span. She is relentless on both ends of the court and has been a perfect leader for this young team to follow.
A perfect example of this leadership is reflected in the team’s overall defensive performance on the season. In the conference, the Bruins hold the number one spot in scoring defense, field goal and three point defense, and defensive rebounds.
They have averaged over 43 rebounds per game, and almost 32 of them defensively. As Hermeyer is the only player in the nation to be averaging over 18 points and 13 rebounds per game, she has been the push for this team to put their bodies on the line and play until the whistle.
In the area they desperately needed improvement, they have done so tremendously, and just in time for tournament season.
This team struggled in the depth department early on in conference play. There were more than a handful of times that Harmeyer would only get help from one other starter like Chin or Muesterman, and rarely ever from the bench.
It is safe to say however, that they have found a way for their bench to show up and produce. For the month of January, the bench averaged under 12 bench points per game. That’s not exactly an atrocious number, but it is definitely not up to par with the bench’s potential.
In the seven games they have played so far in February, they improved that number to averaging 20 points off the bench, a number that Coach Brooks might finally be content with.
This major improvement, along with the consistency of their defense and leadership from Harmeyer, have sent them on a six game winning streak that doesn’t show any sign of stopping.
Their ability to flourish through adversity is ultimately the reason why I believe this team deserves an A for the entirety of the conference season.
The Final Week at a Glance
The Bruins will remain at home to play Tennessee Tech on Thursday, a team the Bruins were able to hold in January, but puts up over 70 points per game and has the third highest field goal percentage in the conference.
They will play their last game of the regular season on Saturday away at Tennessee State who, just a few weeks ago, kept themselves too close for comfort in the Curb Event Center.
Article written by Ian Kayanja and Julieann Challacombe.