#107 Belmont: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #107
Conference Rank: #1 Atlantic Sun Conference
2009-10: 19-12, 14-6
2009-10 postseason: none
Coach: Rick Byrd (488-273 at Belmont, 580-328 overall)
The 2009-2010 campaign was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Belmont. This was a team that lost four starters and had more questions than answers heading into the campaign. They ended up on top of the Atlantic Sun conference standings along with three others. The postseason eluded them, but the Bruins and Coach Rick Byrd proved that they are perennial powers in the A-Sun and they will not be going anywhere any time soon.
Key Losses: F Keaton Belcher
With such a young team last year, the newcomers will not be asked to do much. However, that may not keep redshirt freshman Blake Jenkins off the court. Jenkins is a superb athlete and, at 6-7, has the size to play at the four spot and help replace Belcher. While Belcher was a nice three-point shooting big man, Jenkins’ athleticism will add another dynamic to the offense no matter where he plays. Chad Lang will spend some time learning behind the starters, but he has all the tools to develop into a fine interior player sooner or later. On the perimeter J.J. Mann will battle for playing time. His sharpshooting should find him a regular spot in the rotation off the bench for now.
However, it will be difficult for any new perimeter player to find playing time on this team. Drew Hanlen had one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the nation last year and he only started eight games. Yet, the junior was playing his best basketball late in the year and he can do a lot more scoring than his 6.8 points per game indicate. But Hanlen should be relegated to the bench again thanks to Kerron Johnson. The 6-1 sophomore did a great job running the show and a year of experience in the system will do him wonders. The go-to-scorer for the Bruins should again be Ian Clark. The reigning conference Freshman of the Year started his collegiate career with a bang, averaging 14.9 points and connecting on 2.4 three-pointers per game. Jordan Campbell should emerge as the leader of the team. The savvy senior is a great defender and his offensive game is always improving, most notably his outside shooting. Jonny Rice should play a bigger role this year if he can stay healthy and Adam Barnes is not a bad player to have coming in off the bench either.
The loss of Keaton Belcher means the Bruins will have to shake up the frontcourt a little bit. That could mean a smaller starting lineup, but Coach Byrd has plenty of talented big men to play when necessary. Mick Hedgepeth is the best of the bunch. The 6-9, 235 pound junior averaged 11.6 points and a team high 6.5 rebounds last year and is expected to be just as productive this time around. The other big body who is a proven contributor is Scott Saunders. Saunders averaged 7.8 points and 4.2 rebounds last year despite averaging just 14.4 minutes per game. Saunders would certainly be the center on this team with Hedgepeth moving to the power forward spot if he could stay out of foul trouble. However, as impressive as his points per minute numbers are, his fouls per minute ratio is equally impressive, but in a bad way.
Who to Watch:
Saunders’ knack for fouls will likely keep him out of the starting lineup for the most part. That leaves senior Jon House as the probable starter at power forward. House has been around the block a few times and contributed on some great Belmont teams. He is not much of a scorer, but he is extremely tough and a vital player on this team even if the stat sheet says otherwise. House should be in the starting lineup one way or another, but Jenkins or sophomore Brandon Baker could eat up some minutes at the four spot as well. Baker had some inconsistent outings during his freshman campaign, but he certainly can make an impact off the bench.
Last year was the rest of the conference’s chance to knock off Belmont. There should not be any four way ties this year as Belmont is the clear favorite to win the conference title and once again reach the NCAA Tournament. This may not be a team that will win a game once they get there, but they always make things interesting for some unlucky opponent in the first round.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Kerron Johnson, Sophomore, Guard, 6.1 ppg
Ian Clark, Sophomore, Guard, 14.9 ppg
Jordan Campbell, Senior, Guard, 6.5 ppg
Jon House, Senior, Forward, 5.8 ppg
Mick Hedgepeth, Junior, Forward, 11.6 ppg
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