NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - On the heels of an 11th postseason appearance in the last 12 years, Belmont University men's basketball head coach Rick Byrd released the program's complete 2017-18 schedule Wednesday.
Having won 16 conference championships since 2006 – third-most nationally over that span behind only Kansas and Gonzaga – Belmont has earned a reputation as one of the most respected programs in the country.
The Bruins' slate features eight contests against postseason teams from a year ago, including four in the opening month against RPI Top 60 programs.
"The Ohio Valley Conference has been wonderful for our university and our program," Byrd said. "We have enjoyed the local rivalries and spirited competition, and look forward to putting our best foot forward come league play. I think the league is in a healthy place, with depth across the board."
Belmont's pursuit of a 10 regular season conference championship in 13 years begins Dec. 28 at Southeast Missouri.
The Bruins' conference home openers will be versus Tennessee Tech (Jan. 4) and Jacksonville State (Jan. 6).
In fact, January provides an outstanding opportunity for fans to catch Belmont Basketball at the Curb Event Center, as the Bruins conclude the month with a four-game homestand - Murray State (Jan. 18), Austin Peay (Jan. 20), Eastern Illinois (Jan. 25) and SIU Edwardsville (Jan. 27).
Following a quartet of away games to open February, Belmont has three of its final four league games at home - Eastern Kentucky (Feb. 15), Morehead State (Feb. 17) and Tennessee State (Feb. 24).
Fans will take note of several changes for OVC basketball this season:
- The league has expanded to an 18-game conference schedule, with each institution playing nine home and nine away games.
- The league has eliminated divisions, with standings and conference tournament seeding based on conference W-L record.
- The men's conference tournament bracket will maintain a merit-based system; with double-byes given to the first and second place teams in league standings (no longer to divisional champions) and single-byes given to the third and fourth place teams.
The 2018 OVC Basketball Championship will take place Feb. 28-March 3 at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana.
As the program announced previously, Belmont opens the season Nov. 10 at Pac-12 Conference mainstay Washington as part of the 2K Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project. Though No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft Markelle Fultz has departed, first-year head coach Mike Hopkins has three of the Huskies' top four returning scorers. Interestingly, NBA Champion and former Belmont All-American Ian Clark ('13) made his college debut at Washington, scoring 21 points as the Bruins won at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Three days later, Belmont returns home for one of the highest-profile matchups in the history of the Curb Event Center – taking on Nashville neighbor and SEC stalwart Vanderbilt.
The Commodores return seven of their top nine scorers, including senior Jeff Roberson.
High-level competition continues in earnest, as Belmont ventures down I-24 for a Nov. 16 date with Middle Tennessee. The Bruins and Blue Raiders have forged a spirited rivalry over the last decade, with Belmont claiming victory in seven of the last 10 meetings.
Belmont will host the subregional round of the 2K Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project Nov. 18-19. The Bruins welcome Houston Baptist, Detroit Mercy and Seattle to the Curb Event Center.
From there, after not playing a game in the state of Rhode Island in program history, Belmont will spend a second consecutive Thanksgiving in The Ocean State facing Big East power Providence.
The Friars have earned four straight NCAA Tournament berths, and sport a Nashville connection with senior guard Jalen Lindsey – a high school teammate of former Belmont standout Craig Bradshaw ('16).
As has been the case in recent years, Belmont and Lipscomb will face twice in a one week span, starting Nov. 27 at the Curb Event Center. Last season featured two of the most memorable finishes in Battle of the Boulevard history – with Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Taylor Barnette ('17) each delivering last-second heroics for the Bruins.
Belmont has won 11 consecutive games in the series.
November closes with another high-profile, major conference test, as Belmont travels to Fort Worth to face Big 12 stronghold TCU. The Horned Frogs won the 2017 Postseason NIT and are expected to receive Preseason Top 25 billing from numerous media publications. The game will serve as a homecoming for Belmont senior point guard Austin Luke (Rowlett, Texas).
After a busy travel November, the Bruins' five December non-conference dates are local.
Belmont hosts Horizon League contender Green Bay Dec. 2. The Phoenix played in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) last season after a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2016. The programs were scheduled to face last season in Green Bay before Mother Nature intervened.
Following a second Lipscomb game and break for semester exams, Belmont hosts Milwaukee Dec. 13. The Panthers reached the Horizon League championship game last season.
The Bruins stay home Dec. 16 to wrap up their series with Pepperdine of the West Coast Conference. Belmont won last season in Malibu, 85-77.
Non-conference play concludes Dec. 19 at Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers are expected to contend for Conference USA supremacy led by senior Justin Johnson. Belmont has won four consecutive games in the series, including last season in Nashville.
A complete listing of tip times and schedule of televised games will be released in the coming weeks.
For a 15th straight season, the live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network.
Byrd enters the 2017-18 season ranked sixth among all active NCAA Division I head coaches in career victories with 754.
Belmont season tickets – which include the entire men's and women's basketball home schedule – are on sale now at (615) 460-BALL and belmontbruins.com/tickets.
The only way to ensure seating at the Belmont-Vanderbilt game is through purchase of season tickets.
Bruin Club season-ticket holders will have the exclusive benefit to purchase additional Vanderbilt game tickets (with seating priority) in advance of the general public.
To become a Bruin Club member, contact Russell Grimm at (615) 460-5668 or [email protected].
Belmont University men's basketball has earned postseason 11 of the last 12 seasons, including seven automatic berths to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have won 16 conference championships since 2006 - third-most nationally over that span (Gonzaga, Kansas). Belmont is one of only seven NCAA Division I programs outside the Power 5 to post Top 100 RPIs seven consecutive seasons (BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary's (CA), San Diego State, VCU, Wichita State). Belmont University men's basketball boasts an NCAA-leading 15 CoSIDA Academic All-America selections since 2001 and is one of only three NCAA Division I programs to make the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) Honor Roll every year of existence.