As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 22-10, 11-5 Ohio Valley Conference
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 107.9 (64th)/106.5 (259th)
Seed: No. 15 in East
Impact player: Craig Bradshaw, junior, guard: 18.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 109.0 offensive rating.
[daily_cut.college basketball]The Case For: Belmont has already pulled off one upset this March, edging Murray State (who had been undefeated in the conference) in the Ohio Valley tournament final to snag its NCAA bid. How'd the Bruins do that? Terrific shooting. Belmont made 15 threes in that game on 39.5% marksmanship. That's the kind of shooting it will need to have a shot at upsetting Virginia in this tournament. And it wasn't an anomaly—the Bruins shoot 38.2% from three on the season and are incredibly efficient inside the arc as well, shooting 56.2% and ranking sixth in the nation in kenpom.com's effective field goal percentage. Junior Craig Bradshaw, the team's leading scorer, had 42 points in a two-point win over Ohio in November and has eclipsed 25 points seven different times this year. Belmont enters the NCAAs on a seven-game winning streak, and a great-shooting team playing with house money is always one to look out for.
The Case Against: Belmont may light up a scoreboard but it gives up more than one point per possession, has little-to-no shot-blocking presence and is prone to turnovers. The Bruins played VCU in December and lost by 27, and the Murray State win—which took place less than five miles from their home arena—is their lone victory against the RPI top 100. This team even lost to lowly Jacksonville State, one of the worst 50 teams in the country, according to RPI. Belmont shot 29.4% from three in that game, a good reminder of how hard it will be for the Bruins to win if they aren't making outside shots. The matchup with the Cavaliers is especially difficult, then, as UVa. has held opponents to the third-lowest field goal percentage in the country. Anything less than a terrific shooting day for Belmont could turn into an ugly blowout.
SI prediction: Lose to Virginia in Round of 64