NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - On the heels of a fifth consecutive conference championship, Belmont University men's basketball head coach Rick Byrd released the program's 2014-15 schedule Tuesday.
Packed with compelling storylines and unrivaled competition, the 2014-15 season promises to be another exciting chapter in the history of Belmont Basketball.
Annually playing one of the nation's most demanding schedules, Belmont is one of only six NCAA Division I programs to win 26 or more games each of the last four seasons.
The slate features 11 contests against teams that won 20 or more games a year ago.
"Just like the past several years, we face a very demanding non-conference schedule," Byrd said. "Starting new series with tradition-rich programs of area interest will benefit us greatly. We continue to believe that challenging ourselves early in the season will better prepare us for OVC play – the most important part of our schedule."
The Bruins open regular season play Nov. 14 at Horizon League stalwart Wright State. The Raiders won 21 games last season in reaching the conference championship game. The game will also be mere minutes away from the hometown of Belmont sophomore Evan Bradds (Jamestown, Ohio).
Three days later, Belmont and Lipscomb meet at Allen Arena, the first of two meetings within a one week span. 'The Battle of the Boulevard' series has become a staple of the Nashville sports landscape. It will mark the fifth and sixth head-to-head meetings between Byrd and former Belmont player/assistant coach and current Lipscomb head coach Casey Alexander.
Belmont opens its home schedule Nov. 19 against Trevecca Nazarene, before heading up I-65 to Bowling Green to face Conference USA newcomer Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers won 20 games last season in their Sun Belt Conference farewell.
The Bruins conclude their stretch of five consecutive mid-state contests at home Nov. 26 against Denver.
Following the Thanksgiving holiday, Belmont travels to perennial Mid-American Conference contender Ohio Nov. 29. The Bobcats welcome first-year head coach Saul Phillips, who led North Dakota State to the Summit League title last season. Belmont and Ohio played in the 2013 ESPN Bracketbuster game before a raucous, standing-room only Curb Event Center crowd.
December opens will a familiar foe, as Belmont hosts Middle Tennessee Dec. 2. The Bruins and Blue Raiders have played 12 times since the 2004-05 season, with Belmont winning six of the last seven meetings. Middle Tennessee is again expected to challenge for Conference USA supremacy, going 24-9 last season.
One week later the Bruins welcome Missouri Valley Conference mainstay Evansville to the Curb Event Center. The Purples Aces, who won five NCAA College Division national championships from 1959 to 1971, hosted Belmont in the 2009 College Insider Postseason Tournament.
Belmont wraps up the three-game homestand with a Wright State return date Dec. 11.
The holiday season brings cheer and travel for the Bruins, as Belmont will head back to the River City of Richmond to face national power VCU Dec. 16. The Bruins and Rams have met each of the past two seasons, forging a compelling series between two of the nation's most respected programs. Head coach Shaka Smart returns All-America candidates Treveon Graham and Briante Weber to a consensus national Preseason Top 25 squad.
The Bruins will pack the winter attire Dec. 20, for a matchup with Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference member Fairfield. The Stags played at the Curb Event Center last season.
The non-conference schedule concludes Dec. 28 at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse as the Bruins take on Big East member Butler. The 2010 and 2011 National Runners-Up return seven upperclassmen, in a game that promises to hold special meaning for Belmont's three Indiana natives.
Belmont opens OVC play New Year's Day against Southeast Missouri.
The Bruins' lone regular season meeting with Murray State will take place Jan. 15 in the commonwealth. Since Belmont joined the OVC, all three meetings with the Racers have been decided in the final seconds - with the combined point total being 243-243.
A rematch of the 2014 OVC Championship game will come Feb. 5 as Belmont plays at Eastern Kentucky.
Three of Belmont's final four conference games will be at home, including Feb. 28 against Tennessee State.
The 2015 OVC Basketball Championship will take place Mar. 4-7 at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. The top two teams in the regular season standings will earn byes into the semifinals, with the third and fourth seeds earning byes to the quarterfinal round.
Belmont joins Kansas and Memphis as the only three programs in the nation to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament six of the last nine years. Moreover, only Belmont, Gonzaga, St. Mary's (CA), VCU, and Wichita State among non-football playing universities have finished with a top 60 RPI each of the last four seasons.
Byrd enters the 2014-15 season ranked seventh among all active NCAA Division I head coaches in career victories with 689.
A complete listing of home tip times, schedule of televised games, and games with live video streaming on the OVC Digital Network will be released in the coming weeks.
For a 12th straight season, the live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network.
For more information on purchasing Belmont Basketball season tickets, contact the Curb Event Center Box Office at (615) 460-BALL or visit belmontbruins.com.