It’s hard to forget Belmont men’s basketball’s exciting win over Murray State in the final seconds at the Ohio Valley Conference championship last season.
The team hopes to continue the excitement into the upcoming season.
“We’re excited. We have a really good team and I’d say I think it’s one of the best teams I’ve been on since I’ve been here my four years,” said senior guard Craig Bradshaw.
At the preseason OVC Basketball Media Day, the Bruins were picked to win the overall conference and garnered 21 of 24 first-place votes.
In addition, Bradshaw was named Preseason OVC Player of the Year while junior forward Evan Bradds joined Bradshaw on the Preseason All-OVC Men’s Basketball team. The duo were also among those listed as Mid-Major All-America candidates.
“I don’t know if there’s anything more meaningless than preseason polls and even particularly all conference teams,” said head coach Rick Byrd. “No one’s scored a basket yet, no one’s done anything yet.”
Although Byrd thinks the preseason polls don’t carry much weight, the team is aiming to come out on top at the end of the season to make its eighth appearance at the NCAA Tournament.
In addition to the OVC preseason polls, Belmont also got two points in the USA Today Coaches Poll released on Oct. 15.
“Rankings don’t mean anything to me as far as getting votes and stuff, we deserve votes but we’ve got to perform during the season,” said Bradshaw.
In order to set the team up for success in the conference, Byrd laid out a tough non-conference schedule.
To start out the season, the Bruins play only one out of eight games in the month of November. The road competition includes Marquette, Arizona State and BYU.
“I think it’s going to help us. It’s the toughest to go on the road and get wins and especially against our schedule. It’s a really tough schedule and it’s going to prepare us for conference tournament time and hopefully NCAA tournament time,” said Bradshaw.
As coach Byrd enters his 30th season coaching the Bruins, he said he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“I’m totally blessed that I get to coach basketball at Belmont and live in Nashville and have the kind of young men on our team that I get to coach,” he said. “And I don’t always love gamedays. The stress of trying to win the next game happens for four straight months for us as a coach but I couldn’t be in a better place to do it.”
Not only is Byrd happy with where he is, but those who play for him consider it an honor to have him as a coach, said Bradshaw.
“When you talk about staples, he’s a staple at Belmont,” said Bradshaw. “Just to get play for somebody who’s been here for 30 years and hopefully get him his first NCAA tournament win so it’s going to be fun.”
After tipping-off their season on the road at Marquette on Friday, Nov. 13, the Bruins play their home-opener on Wednesday, Nov. 18 against Western Kentucky at 6 p.m. in the Curb Event Center.
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