Boclair: Burden of Belmont’s pursuit increases with NCAA loss

Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 10:05pm

The question will linger for at least one more year but it could go on much longer than that. Never mind that anyone involved with Belmont basketball already has heard it more than they want.

When will the Bruins finally win an NCAA tournament game?

They were a chic pick to do so this year but ultimately got manhandled by Arizona last Thursday in Salt Lake City. Their most significant weakness (the absence of an inside presence) was exploited to the degree that they were outrebounded by a margin of more than 2:1 and their normally reliable 3-point shooting did not produce as hoped.

So the wait continues.

Although it likely is little solace right now, journeys such as this often are well worth it. The sports world is filled with examples of those who struggled long and hard before they achieved the breakthrough they coveted. Once they did the victories came fast and furious after that.

Golfer Phil Mickelson, for example, turned professional in 1992 and immediately began to win PGA events. Heck, his first victory came a year earlier when he was a 20-year-old amateur.

For more than a decade, though, a coveted major championship remained elusive. He finally got one when he won the 2004 Masters. He promptly added another in each of the next two years (the 2005 PGA and the 2006 Masters) and completely squashed any notion that he could not win a big one.

Some might forget but there was a time when the prevailing wisdom was that Michael Jordan never would lead a team to an NBA championship. He was not a player who made his teammates better, or so people thought.

He endured six seasons before he got his first title. Then he led his team to three in a row — twice — and forged a reputation as one of the all-time greatest winners in any sport.

In this case, a more apt comparison might be Butler, which lost in its NCAA opener in 1997, 1998 and 2000 before it finally won one game in 2001. In seven NCAA appearances since that program has gone 16-7 and reached the national championship game twice.

Assuming this sort of thing is the norm, therefore, big things are in store for Belmont once the quest for a first NCAA tournament victory finally ends.

The only thing is the wait must seem interminable at this point given what the Bruins’ former conference foe Florida Gulf Coast accomplished last weekend.

Belmont left the Atlantic Sun Conference for the Ohio Valley this season — in part — to help raise the profile of the basketball program, the crown jewel of the school’s athletics department. Yet there is no bigger story in college basketball right now than FGCU, which faces Florida in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

Not only is Florida Gulf Coast 2-0 in its first trip to the NCAA tournament, the program only became eligible for the 68-team field for the first time last season.

For a program like Belmont, which is now 0-6 all-time, it hardly seems fair.

It doesn’t help that FGCU’s first victory — the one that catapulted the program into the national consciousness — was against Georgetown.

Belmont faced that same high profile program twice in the NCAA tournament and lost by 15 points each time, most recently a year ago. Belmont handled virtually the same FGCU team last year, winning 3 games by a combined 74 points.

Simply put: This is Florida Gulf Coast’s time.

Belmont’s will come. Eventually.

The more time that passes in pursuit of that heretofore-elusive victory the more frustrating the wait becomes. All anyone associated with the program can do is believe it all will be worth it. Eventually.

2 Comments on this post:

By: Rasputin72 on 3/29/13 at 6:38

Belmont leaving the Atlantic 10 did not seem to be a great idea to me. Especially leavong for the Ohio Valley.

I am sure that Rick Byrd and the athletic committee had a much broader view than I.

Perhaps someone with broader knowledge of the tournament can tell me why Belmont as as a 11 seed and a couple of 15 seeds a 14 seed and a 13 seed is supposed to advance beyond the first round more than once every 8 tries.

Over the last 20 years how many 13, 14 15 and 16 seeds have their been? What percentage of that number have advanced.

Belmont has exceeded my expectations more times than my favorite school Vanderbilt.

By: courier37027 on 3/29/13 at 12:20

To borrow a cliche, this is called "catching lightning in a bottle". Florida Gulf Coast is using the same improbable run that vaulted N.C. State to NCAA title in 1983. Play well and get hot at the right time, and ride the wave until it stops.

Moving to OVC allowed Belmont an upgrade in conferences and reducing travel. Yes, Belmont lost its home-and-home with Lipscomb. Eventually I think Lipscomb will join OVC as basketball only.