College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Belmont vs. Ohio: Will the Bruins Cruise to Win?
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Nick Muszynski.
- Belmont travels to Ohio to take on the Bobcats in what is a much-anticipated mid-major battle on Opening Night.
- The Bruins return all five starters, while the Bobcats will be relying heavily on Mark Sears after losing Jason Preston to the NBA.
- Keg breaks down this matchup and offers up his top pick.
Belmont vs. Ohio Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
It’s been a long 217 days without college basketball, but the long wait ends on Tuesday.
While some people are excited to see Duke vs. Kentucky, a matchup of college basketball blue bloods to kick off the season, another one of the 184 games to be played on Tuesday has my attention.
The Belmont Bruins will head to Athens to take on the Ohio Bobcats in a matchup of two of the most experienced teams in the nation.
Both return nearly their entire teams from last year and are expected to be contenders to win their respective conferences, but between the two of them, who can get the year started with a win?
All five starters return from a 26-4 team that started even stronger at 24-1 before an injury to Nick Muszynski contributed to a pair of OVC losses at Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State in late February.
Then, after advancing to the league tournament title game, Belmont was beaten again by Morehead, denied an NCAA Tournament bid, and wasn’t invited to a reduced-field NIT.
Last year’s disappointment came after the 2020 NCAA Tournament that wasn’t played because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bruins had earned their ticket in 2020 by beating fellow league power Murray State in the OVC Tournament finals.
The Bruins will once again have a chance to become an NCAA Tournament troublemaker because of their experience and one of the best players in college basketball in Grayson Murphy (10.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 5.8 APG, 2.3 SPG, 58.9% FG, 35.7% 3PT, 74.2% FT).
He’s the only active player in the sport who’s accumulated at least 900 points, 550 rebounds, 550 assists, and 150 steals in his career. Last season, he led the OVC in seven statistics and ranked among the NCAA leaders in 12, including steals and assists, while also becoming the first player in school history to record a triple-double (13 points, 12 boards, 10 assists against Morehead State).
Oh, and one more thing — he was the OVC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-OVC last season. This year, he will be on pace to become the league’s all-time leader in assists and steals.
Muszynski (15.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.6 BPG, 58.6% 3PT, 73.4% FT) will also be back from injury and carries a big chip on his shoulder. Like Murphy, he was a 2020-21 first-team All-OVC selection.
Joining the two stars back this year will be another important player in his own right in Luke Smith (12.7 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.0 SPG, 45.3% FG, 39.4% 3PT, 81.8% FT), who made an impactful transition from Division-III University of the South to Belmont. He led the OVC in 3-point percentage and made 3-pointers while averaging nearly three assists and finishing eighth in Division-I with 61 steals.
Few teams in the country are as experienced as Belmont; it ranks 15th overall in returning minutes. And even fewer have more motivation to win their way to the NCAA Tournament after two consecutive years of sitting out.
The Bobcats enter the season aiming for their first back-to-back tournament bids since 1964-65. Ohio figures to be right with Buffalo as preseason favorites in the MAC.
It welcomes back everyone who played in the NCAA Tournament game Virginia except Jason Preston, who became the school’s first NBA Draft pick since Brandon Hunter in 2003.
The Cats also return 80% of their minutes from a season ago, but figuring out how to operate without Preston may take some time to figure out.
Preston’s position as starting guard will likely go to returning freshman Mark Sears (8.5 PPG, 3.3 APG, 2.8 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 19.5 MPG, 47.1% FG, 28.6% 3PT, 85.1% FT), who earned a spot on the All-MAC Freshman Team last year while serving as the Bobcats’ sixth man.
Sears had shown the ability to perform in the past when Preston had to miss five games because of injury. During those games, he averaged 14.2 points, 7.6 assists, and 4.8 rebounds in 33.0 minutes per game.
Outside of Sears the lineup will look similar to last year. Fifth-year junior Ben Vander Plas (12.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 33.8 MPG, 43.2% FG, 34.7% 3PT, 76.4% FT) and fifth-year center Dwight Wilson III (14.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 0.4 BPG, 27.3 MPG, 65.5% FG, 67.1% FT) will handle the frontcourt.
Then, third-year sophomores Ben Roderick (12.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 26.4 MPG, 47.5% FG, 39.6% 3PT, 66.7% FT) and Lunden McDay (10.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 47.5% FG, 33.7% 3PT, 79.7% FT) will man the wings.
The Bobcats will be one of the best teams in the MAC, and I believe they will excel in conference play. But it may take them time to gel without Preston early in the season.
Belmont vs. Ohio Betting Pick
Because Ohio may take time to come together, I bet Belmont at the opening line of -3.5 and would bet it up to -4.5.
The Bruins have a chip on their shoulder from being, in my opinion, robbed of tournament opportunities the last two years. Returning all five starters, this Bruins lineup should move seamlessly into this season and start the year off right with a win.
Pick: Belmont -3.5 (Play to -4.5)
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