Yes, I am aware of so many pundits all on a sudden are jumping on our bandwagon. I understand people like Burlison having such high hopes for our team - they have been paying attention the whole season. But it is hilarious to see ESPN assclowns like Vitale, Phelps, and court jesters like Tony Kornhieser who really know nothing about college hoops except for what goes in conferences East of Mississippi. It is amusing to say the least. And they are only going to give more fodder for certain bandwagon hopping sports journalists and fans in Los Angeles to build up expectations and create a sense of pressure around our program.
But no worries people. Here at least on the home page of the BruinsNation we are going to try our best to stay disciplined and keep the focus on Howland just like a Howland coached/Afflalo led squad. We are going to focus on Belmont and Belmont only and think about other stuff until after that game is over. And it helps to have a writer like Brian Dohn around Los Angeles who gets the picture. Dohn has more 411 on Belmont for the Bruin faithful:
Like Texas Tech, which beat UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last March, Belmont (20-10) runs a motion offense, coaches said. But unlike the Red Raiders, Byrd uses one player in the post rather than two, will also run offensive sets, likes to get out in transition and isn't shy about shooting the long ball, A-Sun coaches added.
"They have four guys that can handle and shoot the basketball," said Florida Atlantic coach Matt Doherty, who also coached at Notre Dame and North Carolina. "They're not overly athletic, but they know how to play, and Rick Byrd is an excellent coach."
Hare is Belmont's leading scorer (15.9 ppg), but there is balance, with four players averaging double-figures in points, and the Bruins' rotation goes eight-deep.
Lefty shooting guard Josh Goodwin has made 46 percent (81 of 176) of his 3-pointers to lead the perimeter game, and hulking 6-foot-11, 265-pound Tennessee transfer Boomer Herndon gives Belmont a low-post presence. He is averaging 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, but as coaches pointed out, that was against A-Sun competition. Herndon could have trouble in an up-and-down game.
Belmont is seventh in the nation in scoring (81.8 ppg), ranks fourth in field-goal percentage (.500) and is seventh in 3-point shooting (.381).
"We're pretty good friends with their staff, and one emphasis in their recruiting is finding kids that can really shoot the basketball," said Mercer assistant coach Jeremy Luther, who scouts Belmont. "It opens the floor for basket cuts, for backdoor cuts. It often puts a premium on how other teams guard their inside kid. They can play any style of basketball they want, as far as our level, not (the Pacific-10) level."
UCLA won't be Belmont's first high-profile opponent this season. Belmont lost 81-59 at Oklahoma on Nov. 26, and three weeks later lost at Ohio State 85-75. There was also a four-point loss at Kansas State in late December.
Again ... I know everyone is super excited around here. And we have every reason to be. But before getting swept away by all the blathering coming out of those blabbering blowhards from ESPN - don't forget the vulnerabilities we have had to deal with this year. From OC Register yesterday:
Since 2000, only five of the 48 teams (10.4 percent) to reach the Elite Eight had two or fewer players averaging 10 or more points a game, as the Bruins do in guards Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar. Afflalo is leading the Bruins at 16.6 points per game, with Farmar second at 13.6.
North Carolina had four double-digit scorers on its roster and Illinois had five when those teams reached the championship game last season, and there have been several other teams with as many as five players scoring 10 or more points a game reach the Elite Eight. Only Michigan State in 2003 and Wisconsin in 2000 had as few as one player at 10 or more points a game.
But the absence of a legitimate third scoring option can be significant - and the Bruins have been searching for one all season. Josh Shipp averaged 11.3 points in four games, but has been out for the season since Jan. 10 when it was decided he needed to take time and recover fully from offseason surgery on his right hip. Freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is third on the team with 8.8 points per game, followed by Bozeman at 8 and center Ryan Hollins at 6.2.
Also, of the 48 teams to reach the Elite Eight in the past six years, 41 had an inside-outside presence with a post player scoring 10 or more points per game.
The Bruins have lacked a consistent inside scoring threat, though they have in the past four games started to get Hollins more involved at the offensive end. The 7-foot senior scored a season-high 13 points in the Bruins' final regular season game at Stanford and topped that with 18 points in a victory over Oregon State in the quarterfinal round of the Pac-10 Tournament.
"Every team needs a third (scoring) option and every team needs a post presence and I think that should be our primary goal, to get (Ryan Hollins) going as we approach the NCAA Tournament," Afflalo said. "All the best teams have an inside-outside presence. I'm very happy right now for Ryan Hollins and the rest of our bigs. They're playing well right now and I think this is the perfect time of the season for them to be doing so."