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SEASON PREVIEW: Men’s basketball faces highly competitive play this season, opening with Ohio Univer

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

It’s no secret the Bruins are entering a tough season against high-profile opponents, but it’s something the players and coaches are looking forward to.

“We have a challenging schedule,” said head coach Casey Alexander, who is going into his third year with the Bruins.

“It will be a fun experience for our players and it will prepare us well for OVC play and hopefully an NCAA tournament appearance.”

After banking a 26-4 record and narrowly missing NCAA tournament territory in 2020-21, the Bruins are looking at an intense season ahead and are the OVC favorites for 2021-22.

“We’re obviously really excited. We’ve got a special group — I don’t think that’s a very well-kept secret anymore,” said center Nick Muszynski. “We’ve been prepping for this since April.”

And they’ll start with an opening game against defending Mid-American Conference champions Ohio University on the road Tuesday.

Belmont’s veteran players will be valuable assets on the court this season, and they have already stacked up preseason honors.

Point guard Grayson Murphy was named Preseason OVC Co-Player of the Year by Blue Ribbon, Althlon and the league office, sharing the honor with Morehead State forward Johni Broome.

Currently on pace to become the OVC’s career leader in assists and steals, Murphy is one of the nation’s most accomplished guards, ranking top-10 in both categories in the 2020-21 season.

Fellow graduate student Muszynski was named Preseason OVC Player of the Year by Lindy’s Magazine and was selected as one of 20 players to watch for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given to the nation’s best center.

He is the only player in Belmont’s NCAA Division I era to earn first team all-conference honors in his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.

Muszynski and Murphy were both named to the Lou Henson National Player of the Year Watch List, an award presented to the top mid-major player in NCAA Division I.

But the preseason accolades don’t stop there: graduate guard Luke Smith earned Preseason All-OVC honors alongside Muszynski.

“We have a lot of guys that have done great things for this program,” Alexander said. “The experience that we have returning is very comforting.”

Following the first game of the 2021-22 season, the Bruins will open home-court play on Nov. 13, hosting University of Evansville in the Curb Event Center. This will be the first opportunity for many students to see Belmont’s men’s team live in action since the 2019-20 season.

The schedule will begin to heat up Nov. 22 when the team travels to Baton Rouge to face Louisiana State University.

LSU, which plays in the Southeastern Conference, is the first Power Five team Belmont will face this season, but it won’t be the last.

Over Thanksgiving break, Belmont will take a trip to the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World for the ESPN Events Invitational.

Joined by a host of high-profile teams, including University of Kansas, University of Alabama, University of Miami, University of Dayton, Drake University, Iona College and the University of North Texas, the four-day event will bring some action over the holiday weekend.

Belmont is scheduled to face off against Drake University — a future Missouri Valley Conference opponent — on Nov. 25 at the beginning of tournament play.

When they return home Dec. 2, the Bruins look to continue their five-game winning streak when they host hometown rival Lipscomb University in the annual Battle of the Boulevard.

The switch to conference play will start with a Dec. 30 away game against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

One of Belmont’s main in-conference competitors is Morehead State, though the Bruins have an advantage after being picked as the preseason favorites to win the OVC by conference coaches. The two teams will show what they got on Jan. 20 and Feb. 10.

Belmont’s last regular-season game is scheduled for Feb. 26 at home against Nashville rivals Tennessee State University.

Despite plenty of preseason honors and high expectations, Alexander believes the team has a clear understanding of what lie ahead, he said. The Bruins’ work is cut out for them.

“We understand that this team has done literally nothing to date, so we have a lot to prove,” Alexander said.

The men’s full schedule can be found at Belmont Athletics.


PHOTO: No. 33 Nick Muszynski on the court during a 2020-21 game against OVC rival Morehead State. Belmont Athletics / Tyra Finkeldey.

This article was written by Landen Secrest.

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