In its final chance to impress selection committee members, Belmont put on a clinic not seen in a General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Men's Basketball Championship title clash.
In beating UNF by an astounding 41 points, 87-46, the Bruins shattered the conference’s record for victory margin in a title game. UALR and Samford each won title games by 28 points, a decade apart in 1989 and 1999.
The 41-point margin, the 23 offensive rebounds and holding UNF to a season-low 46 points represent just some of the numbers that have amazed viewers of the Bruins over the course of this season.
First we have to look at the bench play. Head coach Rick Byrd has utilized an 11-man
rotation throughout the season with all 11 averaging double-digits in minutes while none taking on more than 24.8. During the season all 11 regulars posted a double-figure scoring game.
The productivity has proved to be the nation’s best. The Bruin back ups lead the nation in scoring, rebounding and assists per game. No team’s bench in the country has led in all three of those statistics since 1996-97. Throw in the fact that the bench also leads in 3-point field goals made per game, just for good measure.
Beyond depth, Belmont has exhibited excellence. In league games, the Bruins posted a 20.9 points per game scoring margin. No team has posted as wide a margin in 12 seasons. You have to go back to the national runner-up team of Duke in 1998-99 to find a more dominant team in conference play. While Belmont is strong, they don’t exactly feature future first-round stars like Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Trajan Langdon or Corey Maggette. After advancing to the title game in workman-like fashion in the form, the blowout win returned with tonight’s 41-point masterpiece.
With any team this strong, the wins are going to pile up. Belmont became the first Atlantic Sun conference team to post 30 wins in a season. Georgia State, in 2000-01, and College of Charleston in 1996-97 each won 29 games. Something else Belmont would also like to exceed those teams in would be NCAA Tournament wins. Both won first-round games, representing the last two for the conference.
It’s long been rumored that the committee likes teams that finish strong. If that’s the case, Belmont’s seeding has to be on the way up. Since December 24, they own a mark of 21-1, the best record in the nation and are one of just five with only one loss in that time span (Long Island, Bucknell, Utah State. Oakland). They put together win streaks of nine and 12 over than span.
Another rumored favorite stat of the committee iswith road/neutral wins. Chalk up another statistical win for Belmont. They share the national lead in road wins with 13 and now stand at 18-4 in road/neutral games. No team in the country owns as many wins away from home than the Bruins.
Lastly, the RPI. The tool long viewed as the top criteria used by the committee shows Belmont checking it at No. 50 after Saturday’s win. In five of the last six years, the No. 50-ranked team has moved on to the NCAA Tournament, and in three of the years, that team received an at-large bid. Marquette was placed as a No. 6 seed last year while VCU and Kansas State each earned No. 11 seeds in 2009 and 2008, respectively. Kansas State pulled off a first-round upset, while VCU lost by one to UCLA.
You have to dig, literally to the last page of the Atlantic Sun’s record book to find the last time the A-Sun NCAA representative received a seed better than a 14. The aforementioned Georgia State program in 2000-01 received an 11 and bested Wisconsin in the opening round. It will take quite the argument by the committee to judge Belmont not worthy of such a lofty seed.