Fall sports preview: A promising schedule lies ahead for Belmont basketball
The road to March Madness begins in November — and it looks like it’ll be a tough journey for the Belmont Bruins in the upcoming season.
The men’s and women’s basketball schedules, officially released the schedules for the 2021-22 season last week, show some match-ups that promise to be challenging, both at home and away.
Both teams will face off against the usual Ohio Valley Conference opponents, and though the non-conference schedules look to be a tougher challenge this season, a great opportunity to increase national recognition stands ahead of the Bruins.
Following a historic 21-6 season last year when the Bruins rolled with an 11-game win streak before falling short to Indiana University in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Belmont is hoping to go even further in the tournament this year.
The Belmont women’s team dominated in-conference play last season, losing just 3 of its 17 contests.
“In-conference play is always a challenge,” women’s basketball head coach Bart Brooks said. “Those teams know you so well, so it just comes down to executing and adjustments.”
Most high-profile game: Belmont hosts Auburn University, Dec. 15
The Bruins are in great shape after winning the OVC championship and beating Gonzaga University in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but the Tigers have a few big wins to boast about, too. Winning this game could put the Bruins in great shape before conference play begins.
“We’ve got a lot of challenges in our non-conference schedule and I look at those as opportunities for us,” said Brooks.
Season opener against a rival: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Nov. 9 on the road
Belmont will officially open its season on the road against in-state rival UT Chattanooga. After playing the Mocs, who ended last season 14-10, the Bruins head to Oxford, Mississippi to battle Ole Miss.
Home, sweet home: Alabama A&M University, Nov. 18 in the Curb Event Center
After three games on the road, Belmont will open its home season against Alabama A&M. Keep an eye out for the bear statue by the Foutch Alumni House — when it’s decked out in its Bruins jersey, a home game is about to go down.
Battle of the Boulevard returns: Lipscomb University, Dec. 2 in the Curb Event Center
The Curb will play host to the annual Battle of the Boulevard game between Belmont and Lipscomb. Both the men and women will play nationally ranked neighbor Lipscomb, with times to be announced.
Familiar foes come to town: Conference play begins Dec. 30
The Bruins will ring in the new year by kicking off conference play Dec. 30 against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. OVC play will continue throughout the season until the women’s team’s last game against Tennessee State University Feb. 26.
Despite a 26-4 record last season, the men’s team was narrowly edged out of a slot in March Madness after losing its conference championship game. In order to get to the NCAA tournament this year, they’ll have to get through a schedule filled with old friends and a few new foes.
“We have a challenging schedule,” said men’s basketball head coach Casey Alexander.
“It will be a fun experience for our players and it will prepare us well for OVC play and hopefully an NCAA tournament appearance.”
Most high-profile game: Louisiana State University, Nov. 22 on the road
Like the women’s team, the men’s team will get a chance to beat a powerhouse SEC school when it plays LSU on the road. The Tigers have played in the final four on four different occasions, most recently in 2006. The Bruins will have their work cut out for them just two weeks into the season.
Season opener on the road: Ohio University, Nov. 9 in Athens, Ohio
While the women’s team battles UT Chattanooga, the men will head north to play Ohio University, who are the defending Mid-American Conference champions.
Back on the home court: Belmont hosts University of Evansville, Nov. 13 in the Curb Event Center
The Bruins’ first road trip of the season won’t last long, as the team returns home for its first home game of the year against UE Nov. 13. This will be the first chance for new freshman and transfer students on campus to see Belmont basketball in the Curb.
Tournament play at Walt Disney World: Over Thanksgiving break, the men’s team will travel to the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World for the ESPN Events Invitational.
Belmont will be joined by schools including University of Kansas, University of Alabama, University of Miami, University of Dayton, Drake University, Iona College and the University of North Texas for the four-day event.
Conference play kicks-off: OVC play begins Dec. 30
Like the women’s team, the men will kick off conference play on Dec. 30 against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. The team’s last game and final shot at the OVC Championship is a home game on Feb. 26 against TSU.
PHOTO: Belmont’s Jamilyn Kinney hit the court against Murray State back in March 2021, helping propel the team to an OVC Championship game. The team is hoping for another run at the championship this season. Photo courtesy OVC Sports.
This article was written by Landen Secrest, Harry Crane and A.J. Wuest.