As fans, and as media members, it’s often times hard to get past our preconceived notions heading into the basketball season. Ideas like Murray State’s perceived dominance in the conference. Ideas about where the OVC stands in the ranks of mid-majors. Many of us formed ideas about certain schools back in March of last year, and are struggling to try to make reality fit their narrative.
None more so than members of the national media.
Last year, the media fell in love with Murray State. The last undefeated team in the nation, with a poster boy leader in Isaiah Canaan. By this time of year, everyone was falling over themselves to tell the story of the team tucked away in the corner of the Bluegrass State, of their first year coach and All-American caliber guard.
Belmont wasn’t the last undefeated team. In fact, they took their first loss back in November, at the same tournament Murray State returned from triumphantly. And the Bruins already have double the losses of the Racers from the entire season.
But the Bruins team also have something the Racers didn’t last season. Five wins against the RPI top-100, and a top 15-RPI heading into February. By this time last year, the Racers had dipped into the thirties.
You wouldn’t know it looking at the recent “Bracketelogies.” An 11 here, a 12 there. If true, the Bruins seed will be higher than their RPI in March. They can’t even get a single AP-top 25 vote.
I realize it’s not all about the numbers. At least, not that one single number. But the national narrative, just now noticing the veteran team in the Music City, is missing the bigger picture.
This team is just like last year’s Racers.
Belmont, much like the 2011-12 Murray State squad, is one of the best scoring teams in the nation, led by an amazing three-point shooter in Ian Clark. Just like last year’s Racers, Belmont is near the top in the nation in turnovers forced per game, and is as solid defensively as they are offensively. Just like the team the media couldn’t get enough of, Belmont has a roster full of talented role players, including a 6’7″ forward who is the second best three-point shooter on the team.
In some ways, this year’s Belmont team is better. They’re 8-0 in a much tougher OVC, one propped up only by Murray’s dominance a year ago. Whereas the Racers were struggling with the pressure of being undefeated, Belmont has rolled through most of their OVC slate with ease. Belmont shoots the 3-point shot better, has more depth, and even has the benefit of being in a much more accessible city, one with an international airport.
But in one major way they’re worse: Their record. The Bruins have four losses. Murray still had none this time a year ago.
The biggest issue is this: the Bruins don’t fit the preconceived narrative written about the OVC last summer. If you read stories about the conference from those same national media members, they can’t get through a story about the conference without mentioning Murray State, and almost no one mentions how they’ve struggled. Almost every Belmont story written mentions how they’ve yet to play the Racers, with no mention of Eastern Kentucky or Tennessee State, teams the Bruins have beaten with higher RPI’s than the vaunted Murray State.
It’s time for all of us to forget about what we thought heading into the season. Too many games have been played to be holding on to any notion of what we “knew” five months ago. It’s time to move on.
And it’s time for the nation to take notice of the OVC once again. Just on your way to Murray, don’t forget to stop in Nashville.