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Belmont Bruins Game Preview/Open Thread

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The Huskies prepare for their first regular season game under new coach Mike Hopkins

NCAA Basketball: Belmont at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Friday, 11/10/16

Tip-Off Time: 7:00pm PST

TV: Pac-12 Network (WA)

Radio: KVI 570 (football game will be on normal KOMO 1000)

Betting Line: Pick’em

Belmont 2016-17 Statistics:

Record: 23-7

Points For per Game: 76.1 ppg (88th)

Points Against per Game: 70.1 ppg (105th)

Strength of Schedule: 170th

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 110.9 (65th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 102.7 (129th)

Belmont Key Players (stats from 2016-17):

F- Amanze Egekeze, Sr. 6-8, 220: 11.3ppg, 5.5rpg, 0.9apg, 48.7% FG, 84.3% FT, 38.4% 3pt

Egekeze was the 3rd option last year for Belmont but he’s a very dangerous stretch 5 that should give the Huskies fits. Neither Noah Dickerson nor Sam Timmins will want to get dragged away from the basket so this seems like a clear mismatch when Belmont’s on offense. However, I don’t see him being able to hold up defensively against the Huskies’ front line.

F- Dylan Windler, Jr. 6-7, 190: 9.2ppg, 6.3rpg, 1.6apg, 53.3% FG, 73.3% FT, 39.8% 3pt

Windler finished in the 97th percentile in points per possession last season so he’s another extremely efficient player. It will be interesting to see if he becomes the primary option with the graduation of Belmont’s top 2 scorers.

G- Kevin McClain, Jr. 6-2, 180: 4.6ppg, 1.3rpg, 1.1apg, 36.4% FG, 71.1% FT, 27% 3pt

McClain served as the backup shooting guard and point guard but really struggled shooting the ball. He needs to take a step forward with Belmont losing their leading 2-guard.

G- Austin Luke, Sr. 6-3, 200: 8.0ppg, 2.8rpg, 7.1apg, 39.7% FG, 70% FT, 32.6% 3pt

Luke isn’t a great shooter but he’s a tremendous passer. He finished 8th in the country in assist rate last season. However, he’s still quite turnover prone so there will be opportunities for the Huskies if they can stay alert on defense and sag off him to play the passing lanes.

The Outlook

This is an extremely rough first career game for Coach Hopkins. The simultaneous start with the UW-Stanford football game means expect a small crowd. And Belmont is an incredibly dangerous team. They went 15-1 in the Ohio Valley conference but were upset in their conference tournament so had to settle for the NIT. The Bruins are a perennial contender in the OVC and based on the analytics they’ve been equivalent to an average Power-5 conference team over the last several years.

The Huskies finished 163rd in kenpom efficiency margin last season. Belmont played 6 games against teams ranked 150th or better. In those games they went 1-5 with a win in the NIT over #61 Georgia and 9 to 17 point losses against a quartet of top-50 teams. So Belmont mostly cleaned up against an easy schedule but were fully capable of beating a more athletic and physically gifted team if the bigger school didn’t show up ready to play.

This game will be a tremendous test for how well Coach Hopkins has gotten the Huskies to play team defense in the course of a few months. Belmont was #1 in the country in 2-pt FG% last season at 60.1%. However they were 2nd in the country in percentage of attempts from beyond the arc. That means they will bomb it from outside until defenses over-commit and then drive to the hoop for easy looks. That puts a lot of stress on the defense and requires sound defensive assignments to stop. If Belmont gets off to the type of start shooting the ball that Saint Martin’s did last week then it could be a long night. We’ll see if the Huskies are up to the task.

When the Huskies are on offense they should have some mismatches, especially down low with Noah Dickerson. There’s no question that UW is the more athletic team and hopefully they’ll be able to use that athleticism to attack the glass and secure extra possessions.

Belmont will probably take a slight step back this season with the loss of their 2 leaders in minutes played including 20-point scorer, PF Evan Bradds. But they are still extremely well coached and can put up points in a hurry. The Huskies match up well in terms of size in the post as Belmont only has one player (a true freshman) over 6’8. However, unlike many smaller schools they still have decent size on the perimeter as their entire starting lineup stands 6’2 or taller. If the Bruins win this game it won’t be a shock but it will get the Hopkins era off to a poor start. My computer projections suggest the Huskies will be better than most people think but seeing them struggle against Saint Martin’s means I need to see it on the court before I’m a believer.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 73, Belmont Bruins- 77

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