Duke fans remember the Belmont Bruins. In March of 2008, the little school from Nashville, Tennessee met Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Games with a 2 versus 15 seed end in one of two ways: a quiet win for the favorite or one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. With 2:02 remaining in the game, Belmont took a 70-69 lead. Time must have stood still for Duke fans as no one scored for the next 1:53. Finally, Duke’s Gerald Henderson made a layup with 11 seconds remaining. The swelling excitement of a potential upset that makes March so special quickly faded to a quiet 1 point Duke win.
Belmont will return to the NCAA Tournament this year. The Power Rank has the Bruins at 18th, making them a tough matchup for almost anyone in the first round. Belmont has earned their rank based strong conference play in which they only lost once to arch rival Lipscomb. Moreover, they went to Knoxville twice and each time took Tennesse down to the last minute before finally losing. Belmont also led cross town rival Vanderbilt at the half before finally losing by 9. In all three games, Belmont shot poorly from three point range, well below their 38% average. While defense certainly affects this shooting percentage, the Bruins certainly have the ability to light it up from outside, one route to an upset in the tourney.
Why else should Belmont top your list of potential upsets? First, they punched their ticket to the big dance almost a week ago. That gives them at least 11 days to rest and prepare for a first round game while teams in the Big East beat each other up this week. Second, they resemble a team that wreaked havoc in the tournament last year: Murray State. Just like the Racers last year, Belmont has 11 players that play at least 10 minutes a game and no player that scores more than 13 points a game. In last year’s tournament, Murray State hit a last second shot to drop Vanderbilt in the opening round. Later that weekend, they played Butler all the way down to the final possession before finally losing. That Butler team almost knocked off Duke in the national championship game.