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Belmont Men's Basketball Coach Casey Alexander Looking Forward to a Bye in the Missouri Valley Conference

Belmont Men's Basketball Coach Casey Alexander Looking Forward to a Bye in the Missouri Valley Conference

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Belmont could get a bye in Missouri Valley Conference after thrilling win

After winning 10 combined conference championships over a decade in the Ohio Valley Conference, Belmont is an attractive candidate to join the Missouri Valley Conference. Joining will provide the Bruins with a huge boost as they aim for another championship during their inaugural season in the MVC.

On Wednesday night against Indiana State, junior Ben Sheppard tied his career high with 18 points and made two clutch free throws to lift UCLA out of a tight situation. Now with 1,489 career points, Sheppard will attempt to become the 10th Bruins player to score 1,500.

Coach Casey Alexander wants to get a bye

After their thrilling win against Bradley, Coach Casey Alexander is looking forward to a bye week in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Last year, the Bruins lost seven of their top eight players, but have proven they can still compete in the league. This season they have won four games and lost three with an average scoring margin of 84.5 points per contest.

They lead the league in turnovers forced and blocks per game, haven't trailed by more than eight points this season and have led at halftime in each of their last five games.

They are the only MVC team to have led at halftime this season and held each opponent to a single-digit deficit in each of their first six games.

Alexander was handed a program with an impressive pedigree, ample funds and supportive administration. Though he commutes one mile to work each day, Alexander knows the staff he works with are committed to rebuilding the program he inherited.

Alexander began his basketball career playing for one of college basketball's great Mid-Major legends, Rick Byrd. Later, he served as an assistant to Byrd for 16 years and helped him win 287 games during his illustrious career.

Under Alexander, Belmont University won or shared six ASUN titles and eight Ohio Valley championships en route to eight NCAA Tournament berths. With their unbeaten streak intact, the Bruins remain undefeated in the country and look set for another trip to the NCAA Tournament this year.

He helped Lipscomb establish itself as a dominant Low-Major program in the Atlantic Sun Conference with 20 victories and four postseason appearances. Additionally, his national top 25 poll votes and top 50 rankings in the inaugural NET ranking system set new records for Lipscomb.

This year the MVC boasts a formidable 12-team league with SIU Carbondale, Indiana State, Drake and Bradley all striving for 20 or more victories. This league offers greater quality than the OVC, while Arch Madness should be an exciting event.

For 19 of the last 21 seasons, the MVC has won 20 or more games in the NCAA Tournament and is a strong candidate for another Final Four bid in 2020. They have defeated power conference teams 16 times since 1994 and earned an NCAA Tournament bid every season but two since 2010.

Ben Sheppard has a chance to become the 10th Bruin to score 1,500 points

For much of the season, Belmont men's basketball team has lagged behind its competition in the Missouri Valley Conference. But that has started to change with two impressive home wins against Northern Iowa and an exhilarating 89-88 victory against Indiana State at Curb Event Center rotunda. A top-four finish in the MVC is possible for them; hopefully they can ride that wave into March as conference champions. It won't be easy but they possess all necessary tools; their biggest obstacle will be assembling enough talent to compete for a title.

Keishawn Davidson has a chance to lead the MVC in scoring

Keishawn Davidson could potentially lead the Mountain Valley Conference in scoring this season if his stats count. This season, he averaged 10.4 points, 4.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds for Tennessee Tech while shooting 40.5 percent from three on 3.8 attempts per game. Davidson has seen plenty of action this year for Coach Alexander's team this year and would fit perfectly into the "ground and pound" MVC style of play.

In addition to his impressive shooting from distance, he also displays great energy and the ability to win crucial moments in close games. A true leader on the court, his ability to help his team stay positive even when everything else appears to be going awry is a testament to that fact.

As a transfer, he's still learning the MVC, but his versatility allows him to play on both ends of the floor and take over games when needed. His tough matchup against opposing guards makes him an intriguing potential All-MVC selection for 2018.

Belmont University is on an 11-game win streak, making them one of the best teams in the league. Alexander hopes his team can maintain this success and earn a bye for the conference tournament.

The Bruins rely on Keishawn Davidson, Ben Sheppard and Ja'Kobi Gillespie as key pieces to their success. Sheppard leads the team in scoring at 19.5 points per game with 5.4 rebounds; Davidson follows behind him both in terms of points scored and assists.

He's a tall 6-foot-8 man who has been an important force in the paint for Alexander this season, tallying 76 assists. Additionally, his 1.33 blocked shots per game rank fourth in the MVC.

Davidson plays an integral role for the Bruins, and Alexander will depend on him to be successful. This season, Davidson shot 40.5 percent from beyond the arc on 3.8 attempts per game for Tennessee Tech; to remain successful against teams that attempt to contain him and diminish his impact in the offensive zone, Davidson must continue scoring consistently.

The Bruins have a chance to win the MVC title

Thursday night, Belmont University claimed a thrilling win to cap off their inaugural regular season in the Missouri Valley Conference by defeating Indiana State 89-88. Senior Ben Sheppard hit two crucial free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining for an extra-point, giving Belmont its 20th win and 13-6 record overall. They are now tied with Indiana State and Southern Illinois for third place in the MVC with eight teams within one game of first place.

For the Bruins, this is an exciting chance to earn a bye into the MVC Tournament and secure one of four automatic NCAA Tournament spots. Coach Casey Alexander's team always seems to be prepared for big games, so this team should be hard-pressed not to succeed.

Sheppard is an impressive player who can make a difference on the court, and his stats this year have been impressive. He ranks 10th nationally in effective field goal percentage and leads all players in two-point field goals per game.

He is an outstanding defender and could become the 10th Bruins player to score 1,500 points in their career. Additionally, he was instrumental in transitioning the team into the MVC, providing them with a key cog that they could lean on as they attempt to make a deep run in the tournament.

Murray State has enjoyed success in the OVC for several years, but their roster turnover this offseason could present challenges as they transition into the MVC. While their new talent makes them a potential threat to win the MVC title, this is an entirely new league and it will take time for them to adjust.

If Murray State continues its impressive winning streak in the MVC, they could be a major surprise at the end of the season. Though they've been part of the conference for some time now, they have only ever won one conference tournament title in their illustrious career.

Murray State has the potential to make the conference tournament within a few years with their strong roster and coaching. But this conference is tough to break into, so they will need to find a way to win games against better teams by playing solid defense and being aggressive offensively. To do that, Murray State needs to play well on defense while being aggressive offensively.

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