Overall Rank: #111
Conference Rank: #1 A-Sun
2006-07: 23-10, 14-4, 2nd
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
Belmont’s two year supremacy in the Atlantic Sun may be over, yet here we again with the Bruins atop another preseason poll. Without the services of big men Boomer Herndon and Andrew Preston it is understandable that many think it is time for Belmont to take a slide. The key will be how well Keaton Belcher and Matthew Dotson can take over the production of the departing big men. There is no doubt that Dotson can score, but he is mismatch at the four, not a post player. The 6-8 junior will battle in the paint a little bit, but is by no means the imposing center that Herndon and Preston were.
Playing just 16.5 and 18.1 minutes, Herndon and Preston were practically one center, one big dominating center. The 6-10 duo combined for 19.5 points and 10.1 rebounds…and over five fouls per game. Obviously their absence is extremely detrimental to the frontcourt, but as long as somebody can become somewhat of a scoring threat in the paint, the perimeter group should still be effective. But that perimeter group will be without Josh Goodwin. The 6-3 guard was not as productive during his senior campaign as he was earlier in his career, but the sharpshooter will still be missed.
This group of newcomers does not quite solve any of the frontcourt problems, but the depth everywhere else will get a boost. The sharpshooting Jon Rice might make the biggest impact this year. The Bruins could use another sharpshooter and Rice will do at least that. The 6-0 Naperville, Illinois native will work hard on both ends of the floor and could develop into a big time scorer before his days in Nashville are over. Redshirt wing Jordan Campbell and Alex Renfoe, a transfer from Trevecca Nazarene University, will add some depth to the backcourt. Renfoe is extremely quick and has the skills to score and run the point and will make a big impact this year. Forward Jon House will not take over for Herndon and Preston. In fact, the 6-6 Canadian plays more like a guard than a forward. His international experience is a big plus and the transition to Division I basketball should be an easy one.
Who to Watch:
Justin Hare, Andy Wicke and Henry Harris are a small but talented group on the perimeter. With Wicke replacing Goodwin, the trio even loses an inch, which may cause some problems on the defense end. Hare is the best scorer on the team, coming off a season in which he averaged 14.3 points per game. Wicke is the best long range shooter and after spending most of last season providing a spark off the bench, the 6-2 junior will need to remain productive as a starter. Harris is not a prolific scorer, or even a great playmaker, but he is a smart player and an excellent defender. Shane Dansby was vital roleplayer averaging 5.0 points and 4.4 rebounds during his first season at Belmont after spending a year at Murray State. With a year of playing under his belt, the 6-4 junior is likely to spend more time on the floor and provide the much needed size and rebounding out of the backcourt.
The obvious problem for Coach Rick Byrd in his 22nd season with the Bruins is the absence of frontcourt size. Will Peeples is only 6-6, but has the potential to be in the mix up front. The junior was not as productive last year as he was before he sat out the 2005-2006 season with an injury, but Belmont fans are hoping he can regain his earlier form. Mike Dejworek only played in nine games as a freshman, but is a versatile big man who will get every opportunity to earn the starting position up front. All in all, the Bruins know how to win. And this is the A-Sun we are talking about; many teams have won before without a couple dominating centers on the floor. Teams like East Tennessee State, Jacksonville and Mercer will give the Bruins all they can handle and it promises to be a close race, but Belmont’s experience on the court and on the sidelines give them an edge.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Henry Harris, Junior, Guard, 5.7 points per game
Andy Wicke, Junior, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Justin Hare, Senior, Guard, 14.3 points per game
Matthew Dotson, Junior, Forward, 7.0 points per game
Mike Dejworek, Sophomore, Center, 1.0 points per game