It’s a first-round matchup on the college hardwood in the Sunshine State as the OVC takes on the Missouri Valley Conference in the ESPN Events Invitational. The Belmont Bruins are the “road” team as they take on the Drake Bulldogs Thursday night. Belmont was clobbered 83-53 on the road by LSU in their previous contest Monday. Drake edged Richmond 73-70 at home in their most recent game Saturday. This marks the first time that the two programs have met on the parquet floor as Division I programs.
Belmont Bruins Look to Avoid Falling to .500Belmont saw their three-game win streak snapped as they were pasted on the road by LSU in their previous contest. The Bruins enter this one 3-2 on the year and look to avoid falling to the .500 mark on the season. Against LSU, Belmont led 7-0 3:15 into the game but things unraveled from that point in time. The Bruins gave up an 18-2 run over the next seven minutes to trail by nine and never really were in the game after that. Belmont trailed by 13 at the half and by as many as 39 in the second half en route to the defeat. The Bruins were held to 32.3% shooting from the floor, including 10 of 39 from three-point range and allowed LSU to shoot 54.2% in the contest. Will Richard led Belmont with 16 points in the loss.
The Bruins are a high-octane offensive attack, racking up an average of 81.2 points a night on the season, leaving them 59th in the nation in scoring offense. Belmont collects 38.9 rebounds a night while handing out 19.9 assists a game this season. The Bruins have their struggles defensively as they are 307th in scoring defense, allowing 77 points a night. Nick Muszynski leads the team with 15 points plus 6.2 rebounds per contest on the year. Ben Sheppard (14.8 points) and Will Richard (12.2 points, 5.4 rebounds) are capable scoring options as well. Grayson Murphy, Luke Smith, Michael Shanks, JaCobi Woods, Tate Pierson and Caleb Hollander are key personnel for coach Casey Alexander this season. Belmont shoots 47.1% from the floor this season as a team. The Bruins splash 10 three-pointers a night while shooting 34.5% from beyond the arc. Belmont knocks down a stellar 78.8% of their attempts at the charity stripe this season.
Drake Bulldogs Seeking 4-0 StartDrake held off Richmond in a battle of good mid-major programs in their previous contest to remain unbeaten on the season. The Bulldogs look to run their mark to 4-0 and punch their ticket to the semifinals by prevailing here. Against Richmond, Drake trailed by as many as six in the opening half before trimming the deficit to one at halftime. The Bulldogs trailed by eight with 6:56 to play and by four with 4:44 to go before coming up with the clutch run that decided the contest. Drake reeled off a 9-0 run to go up 67-62 with 2:14 remaining and didn’t let the Spiders closer than two after that. The Bulldogs shot 42.6% from the field, including 10 of 28 from three-point range, and held a 40-34 advantage on the boards. Tremell Murphy paced Drake with 18 points and seven boards in the victory.
The Bulldogs put up an average of 86.3 points per game this season, putting them 28th in the nation in scoring offense. Drake collects 39 rebounds a night while dishing out 14.3 assists per game. The Bulldogs are above average on the defensive end, ranking 60th in scoring defense by allowing 60.3 points per game. Tremell Murphy leads the team with 15 points plus 6.3 boards per game this season. Roman Penn (12 points, 3.7 assists) and Tucker Devries (10.7 points, 5.3 boards) are each scoring in double figures this season. D.J. Wilkins, Garrett Sturtz, Darnell Brodie, ShanQuan Hemphill, Okay Djamgouz, Ayo Akinwole and Nate Ferguson are important contributors for the Bulldogs. Drake is shooting 49.7% from the field as a team this season. The Bulldogs average 11.3 three-pointers a night while shooting a blistering 45.3% from beyond the arc. Drake is above average at the charity stripe this season as they convert 76.1% of their chances.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
We’re looking at a potential track meet here as a pair of teams loaded with veterans and who love to run take the floor here. Belmont brought back a ton of seniors and guys taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19 and that should pay dividends down the line. Drake lost a couple of guys but getting Penn along with Hemphill back after they were both hurt down the stretch last season makes them extremely dangerous. The Bulldogs are blitzing teams from the outside and they are extremely effective out there. Hot perimeter shooting makes the difference in this one as the Bulldogs emerge victorious.
Full-Game Total Pick
Belmont has seen the over hit in three of their five games this season. The Bruins are 39th in offensive efficiency, 57th in effective field goal percentage (54.8%), 29th in two-point shooting (57.3%) and 31st in free throw shooting according to KenPom this season. Belmont is 48th in tempo with an average of 71.9 possessions a night. Drake is 48th in offensive efficiency, 18th in effective field goal percentage (57.5%) and 15th in three-point shooting. The Bulldogs are a middle of the pack team tempo wise by averaging 69.1 possessions a night this season, leaving them 174th in the nation. Look for both teams to push the pace here and put the game over the total.