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It took Belmont head coach Rick Byrd 19 seasons on the job to earn his team's first NCAA Tournament bid back in 2006. Since then, the Bruins have been to the Dance three more times including this season on the heels of a dominating 41-point win over North Florida in the Atlantic Sun Championship to make it into the NCAA 2011 bracket.
Belmont first made national waves in 2008 when they nearly upset Duke in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, but after winning 30 games and producing the 8th most prolific scoring offense in the country during the regular season, the Bruins are being labeled as an early favorite to be the bracket buster in 2011.
Record: 30-4, 19-1
Key Wins: 82-50 vs Jacksonville, Jan. 10th: As good as Belmont as been this season, there are no non-conference wins that really jump off the page. With that said, facing a Jacksonville team that was expected to contend for an Atlantic Sun title (they finished third) and crushing them to the point of a 32-point win, that certainly sent a message to other conference foes.
Key Losses: 66-65 at Tennessee, Dec. 23rd: Again, another major statement even in defeat for Belmont. The Bruins walked into Knoxville and gave the then No. 18 Volunteers everything they could handle in a tremendous game. The two teams opened the season as well with Belmont losing on the road by nine points. Not bad for a little team from the A-Sun to play within an average of five points on the road against a solid SEC team.
Key Player: Ian Clark, Sophomore, Guard
Choosing a key player on Belmont is akin to choosing the best player on an All-Star team; you really can't go wrong. The Bruins feature 11 players who play at least 10 minutes per game, and no one plays more than 25. Clark is the team's top offensive option if you really have to label one, averaging a team high 12.4 points, but has made his mark as a three-point specialist, connecting on nearly 44 percent of his shot attempts from beyond the arc this season. He is a handful in doses though, producing an adjusted field goal percentage of 63 percent in spot-up situations and is in the top 9 percent nationally in scoring efficiency in isolation play types.