Your Kentucky Wildcats will take on the Belmont Bruins tomorrow at noon at Rupp Arena. As the resident Nashvillian on the blog, I took it upon myself to do some research and give you the ten things you need to know about Belmont:
1. Rick Byrd loves sweater vests
Rick Byrd is highly respected by his peers and ranks eighth among all active NCAA Division 1 head coaches in career wins with 671. He’s been at Belmont for 28 seasons, leading the Bruins to six NCAA appearances (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013). His closet also ranks in the Top 10 nationally in most sweater vests, with 493. The man loves sweater vests more than Mitch Barnhart and Chandler Bing combined.
2. This is the first meeting between the Cats and the Bruins
Believe it or not, tomorrow is the first time Belmont and Kentucky have played each other. However, Rick Byrd and John Calipari have met once before during Cal’s time at Memphis, when the Tigers beat the Bruins by six points in 2003.
3. JJ Mann is really good, but almost didn’t get a scholarship
The senior scored 11 points in the final 2:22 of Belmont’s upset of UNC, including the game-winning three with 13.1 seconds left. He finished the game with 28 points and is averaging 17.7 points and 4.8 rebounds so far this season. Despite being Belmont’s best player, Mann almost didn’t get a scholarship. During his recruiting visit to Belmont, he had just gotten over the flu and did not impress the players during pick-up games. Belmont’s players reportedly went to Byrd and told them they didn’t think Mann was good enough to play for the Bruins, but Byrd decided to take a chance on Mann, and it clearly paid off. Get ready to see him shoot early and often from the outside tomorrow.
4. The Belmont Mansion is haunted
Montevallo’s not the only team on UK’s schedule with some ghosts in the closet. Adelicia Acklen was a wealthy Nashville socialite and businesswoman who built Belmont Mansion, the antebellum home at the center of campus, with one of her husbands in the 1850’s. Over the years, Adelicia had ten children, one fiance, and three husbands. The fiance, two of the husbands and six children died before she did, and after her death, she is said to haunt the halls of Belmont Mansion, reportedly setting off motion detectors on a regular basis while looking for her dead children.
5. They’re without their starting point guard
Starting point guard Reese Chamberlain injured his foot earlier this season and hasn’t played since November 24th. Up until his injury, he was averaging 10.9 points a game and 3.9 rebounds. Without him, Belmont has suffered, putting up 20 turnovers in their loss to Denver. He was listed as doubtful against Denver. No word on if he’ll play tomorrow.
6. The man who sang Miley will be in Rupp tomorrow
Charles Van Dyke, the Belmont fan who sang “Wrecking Ball” during the Bruins’ upset of UNC, will be in Rupp Arena tomorrow. I interviewed him this week, and he said that even though he’ll be in the upper deck, he’s going to sing during one of UK’s free throws.
7. There is a Kentucky boy on the team
Sophomore guard Taylor Barnette is a Lexington, Kentucky native who played high school ball at Lexington Christian Academy. He transferred to Belmont after one season at UVA, and is sitting out this season.
8. Tomorrow’s tip time is the earliest they’ve had in over two years
The last time Belmont had a tip time of 11 a.m. CT or earlier was November 15, 2011 against Memphis. Can someone make sure they only have decaf coffee in their hotel rooms?
9. It used to be a girls only school
Belmont used to be known as Ward-Belmont college, an all-girls finishing school for the wealthy families in the Nashville area. One of the most popular alumnae? Minnie Pearl, aka Sarah Colley Cannon. (Howdyyyyy!) In 1951, the Tennessee Baptist Convention bought Ward-Belmont and re-established it as Belmont College.
10. Vince Gill is their biggest fan
Country music star Vince Gill may be Belmont’s biggest fan, attending nearly every home game. Personally, I think Vince Gill has it made. After hitting it big, he and his wife Amy Grant live the good life in Nashville, doing various music gigs at their leisure, attending pretty much any sporting event they want, and in Vince’s case, playing golf and eating plenty of good food. Byrd introduced himself to Gill at a charity golf event in the 80’s and talked him into coming to a game. The rest, as they say, is celebrity fan history.
The two are also close friends with Vandy coach Kevin Stallings, a trio that you know gets into some major hijinks in Music City.