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Bruins headed east to face UVA in NCAA Tournament

Photos: Andrew Hunt

For once, the Belmont men’s basketball team didn’t have to wait long on Selection Sunday to see who it would face in the NCAA tournament.

It only took 15 minutes for the Bruins to learn they will face off as the No. 15 seed in the East region against No. 2 seed University of Virginia on Friday in Charlotte, N.C.

“I told my wife Cheryl that I don’t think we’ve ever been picked in the first 15 minutes,” said Belmont coach Rick Byrd. “But gosh, I have so much respect for Virginia, Coach Bennett, their staff, how they play and how they run their program. But we knew we were going to play a good team and our guys are excited.”

Fifth-year senior Reece Chamberlain echoed the sentiment, excited that this year’s Selection Sunday was different than the previous times.

“I feel like we’ve waited until the very end the last few. And it’s exciting for all the guys to get that. Anticipation is tough and we’re excited to get to go,” said Chamberlain.

Taylor Barnette, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer in OVC Championship to earn the automatic bid, played a season at Virginia before he transferred to Belmont.

The sophomore guard said he had a good inclination the potential matchup and reunion would come true.

“I saw the latest predictions by Joe Lunardi, and that’s exactly what he said or what it is. Virginia the two seed, us the 15 in Charlotte,” Barnette said. “I don’t know if it’s an advantage, but it’s going to be fun playing against the guys that I spent a lot of time with and have good relationships with.”

Virginia earned the No. 2 seed in the region after the Cavaliers finished the season with a 29-3 record. The team’s defense ranks first in scoring defense and held its opponents to 50.7 points per game.

“Everyone hears about their defense. So we’re going to have to do something this week and try to get some open shots. It’ll be fun to figure out,” Chamberlain said.

This will be Belmont’s seventh NCAA tournament appearance since 2006. The Bruins have not won in their last six appearances.

Belmont-Virginia will tip off after the conclusion of Michigan State-Georgia on truTV at 11:40 a.m. central time. Estimated time for the match is 2:10 p.m. central.

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