Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series. Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.
We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
After dominating the Atlantic Sun Conference for the past two years, the Belmont Bruins make a slight move up to Ohio Valley Conference where they will try to compete with defending champ, Murray State.
Last Season: 1st, 16-2 in A-Sun, 27-8 overall
Predicted OVC Finish: 2nd
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Blake Jenkins (Jr)/Chad Lang (So)
F: Brandon Baker (Sr)/Trevor Noack (Sr)
G/F: J.J. Mann (Jr)/Holden Mobley (So)
SG: Ian Clark (Sr)/Adam Barnes (Sr)/Spencer Turner (So)/Craig Bradshaw (Fr)/Jeff Laidig (Fr)
PG: Kerron Johnson (Sr)/Reece Chamberlain (So)/Caleb Chowbay (Fr)
Gone: C-Mick Hedgepath, C-Scott Saunders, G-Drew Hanlen
Belmont’s recent string of success has primarily been because of their quality depth up and down the line-up. The Bruins will boast a lot of options in their backcourt this season but due to a lack of size up-front, might be forced to play a smaller line-up this season.
The only active player on the roster who stands taller than 6-7 is 6-11 Chad Lang and he logged just 50 minutes of playing time a year ago. Unless Lang takes a major step forward this season, that leaves the trio of Blake Jenkins, Brandon Baker, and Trevor Noack to hold down the fort inside. Jenkins is the most offensively skilled of the three while Baker and Noack rely more on their energy and effort to make an impact while on the floor.
Head coach Rick Byrd picked up a commitment from Samford transfer Drew Windler who must sit out this season. He will provide the Bruins with a solid low post scorer and two years of eligibility remaining in 2013-14.
Without a ton of talent inside, the Bruins will rely on their top two leading scorers from a year ago, Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark. Johnson is the table setter of the offense and especially effective off the bounce and in drive and dish opportunities while Clark is a three-point assassin who connected on 40.5% of his triple tries last season. Adam Barnes was a decent reserve a year ago and will see an expanded role off the bench while Spencer Turner, Reece Chamberlain, and freshmen Craig Bradshaw, Jeff Laidig, Caleb Chobway will all compete for court time.
J.J. Mann returns to start at small forward and might see some playing time at the four if Byrd decides to utilize a three-guard look. Seldom used a year ago, Holden Mobley will give Belmont another option on the wing.
Byrd does a solid job of getting his team to play as a unit and buy into their specific roles. It would be foolish to think he can’t get this year’s team to follow suit. However, without a ton of talent inside, the Bruins will become more reliant on their guard play this season. I don’t see them de-throning a loaded Murray State squad that returns a lot of talent from last year but they should be contenders in their inaugural campaign in the OVC.
Player to Watch: Kerron Johnson
Belmont’s floor general will put the finishing touches on a rather impressive collegiate career. He received numerous accolades last season and if it weren’t for Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, Johnson would be the OVC Player of the Year favorite.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/21 vs. Alaska-Anchorage (Great Alaska Shootout)
11/23 vs. Northeastern/UC-Riverside (Great Alaska Shootout)
11/24 vs. Charlotte/Texas State/Oral Roberts/Loyola Marymount (Great Alaska Shootout)
OTHER 111 IN 111′S:
#90 Vanderbilt Commodores
#91 Dayton Flyers
#92 Houston Cougars
#93 UCF Knights
#94 Old Dominion Monarchs
#95 Oregon Ducks
#96 LSU Tigers
#97 South Carolina Gamecocks
#98 Seton Hall Pirates
#99 Georgia Bulldogs
#100 DePaul Blue Demons
#101 Boston College Eagles
#102 Penn State Nittany Lions
#103 Arizona State Sun Devils
#104 Virginia Tech Hokies
#105 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#108 TCU Horned Frogs
#109 Mississippi State Bulldogs
#110 Utah Utes
#111 Nebraska Cornhuskers
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Follow paulmbanks