2008-09 Belmont Basketball Preview: #105
Overall Rank: #109
Conference Rank: #1 Atlantic Sun
2007-08: 25-9, 14-2, 1st
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
Belmont finished up last season winning 13 games in a row before losing to Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by a score of 70-71. And that game against Duke was no fluke. This was a team that knocked off the likes of Cincinnati and Alabama earlier in the year. There are a couple starters that need to be replaced, but the Bruins had 12 players on their roster who started at least a game last year. Their depth might take a small step back, but Coach Rick Byrd and his squad should be atop the Atlantic Sun standings once again and possibly have the opportunity to knock off another powerhouse in March.
Justin Hare not only led the team with 14.7 points per game, but he was the guy who could take players off the dribble and get to the basket. That resulted in plenty of trips to the charity stripe during his senior year and he hit nearly 92 percent of attempts from the line. There are plenty of options ready to take over his scoring, but most need to become more aggressive getting to the basket and hit their free-throws more consistently if they want to be like Hare. Forward Will Peeples started 24 games during his senior campaign. He was not much of a scorer, but was a solid defender and rebounder. Little used Andrew House and walk-on Stefan Baskin will not be suiting up for the Bruins in 2008-2009.
The continued success in Nashville has led to some solid recruiting classes and this year is no different. Point guard Drew Hanlen will have a year to learn behind some more experienced players, but he should be ready to play a bigger role soon. Hanlen is a smart floor leader, a fine passer and can do plenty of scoring when he needs to do so. Jon Rice, who redshirted last year, will add some depth at both the point guard and shooting guard spots. Small forward Brandon Baker and power forward Mick Hedgepeth will add some depth in the frontcourt. And Belmont could use at least one of those guys to step up immediately and be ready to provide some quality minutes off the bench. Walk-ons Alex Barnes and David Stanley will also be suiting up for the Bruins this season.
Who to Watch:
Alex Renfroe and Andy Wicke only combined to start 26 total games last year, but that does not mean they are not ready to take over the leadership role for Belmont. Like Hare, Renfroe will get to the basket. Once there, he can find his teammates, score himself or at least get fouled. However, his free-throw shooting leaves something to be desired. Wicke can also handle the ball, yet most of his scoring will be done from beyond the arc. In fact, Renfroe is the only probable starter who is not a major threat from long range. With Shane Dansby, Jordan Campbell, Henry Harris and Jon House joining Renfroe and Wicke on the perimeter, the Bruins have an extremely talented and experienced backcourt. Dansby should be the starter on the wing after averaging 13.4 points per game last year. The 6-4 senior not only scores, but he is also the most effective rebounder on the team. Campbell had a superb freshman campaign and is coming off a season in which he started 13 games and proved that he can score and rebound. It is almost a shame that he will spend another year mostly coming off the bench, but he will have a couple years when he will be Belmont’s star.
Matthew Dotson and Keaton Belcher are both capable big men. Dotson is a great shooter from long range and led the team with 2.2 three-pointers per game at a 41.4 percent success rate. Belcher ranked second on the team in three-point shooting percentage among players who attempted more than one long ball per game. Mike Dejworek only averaged 5.3 minutes per game last year, but he, along with the newcomers, will have to provide the depth in the paint and it is that potential lack of depth up front that is the only thing that could possibly make the Bruins less successful than they were last year.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Alex Renfroe, Senior, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Andy Wicke, Senior, Guard, 9.3 points per game
Shane Dansby, Senior, Guard, 13.4 points per game
Keaton Belcher, Junior, Forward, 6.1 points per game
Matthew Dotson, Senior, Forward, 11.4 points per game