Dancing again! Bruins return to NCAA Tournament
It’s been 1,080 days since the last time Belmont played in the NCAA tournament. Since then, 1.5 million minutes have passed—that’s 93,312,000 seconds.
After a record-setting victory over the University of North Florida in the Atlantic Sun championship game, the Bruins are back.
“I appreciate this one more than the second one and the third one,” Belmont head coach Rick Byrd said. “It sort of feels like the first one, again.”
Belmont set two A-Sun championship game records during the game. The final margin of 41 was the highest in a championship game—the highest difference since Samford ousted Central Florida in 1999.
“The margin of the game is kind of unfortunate for North Florida,” Belmont head coach Rick Byrd said. “They play as hard and as tough as anybody we play… For their sake, I wished it turned out a little closer.”
Belmont also tied a championship game record with 23 offensive rebounds.
“Coach emphasized that before the game started… The guys hustled to every possession on offense and defense and that’s definitely what won us the game,” senior forward Jordan Campbell said.
Early in the game, Belmont was able to work the ball inside to junior center Mick Hedgepeth who scored 17 points in the first half. Hedgepeth finished with a career-high 23 points and was named the tournament MVP.
“We felt like we had to have a real intent on (feeding to the post) and make them stop us there first,” Byrd said.
“I thought that our perimeter players did a great job of showing patience and not forcing anything too quickly and letting Mick and Scott dictate what they did.”
Belmont is the first team in the nation to reach 30 wins. Now, the Bruins will wait for the NCAA selection committee to decide their seed and first round opponent.
“I think the committee works hard to do the best they can on that,” Byrd said. “Thirty Division I wins is a lot of wins and I hope it earns some respect from the committee.”
The Bruins’ highest seed in their previous three NCAA appearances was a 15-seed against Duke in 2008. Byrd expects better this year.
“Fifteens and 16’s you’re going to have a hard time of winning games, and we know that,” Byrd said. “I think we’ll be better than that and I think it will give us more of a fighting chance and more optimism going into the game.”