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Take Your Pick

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Belmont University men's basketball has been picked as the overall Ohio Valley Conference champion, as the league office unveiled its 2016-17 Men's Basketball Predicted Order of Finish at OVC Basketball Media Day Wednesday.

Senior forward Evan Bradds (Jamestown, Ohio) was named Preseason OVC Player of the Year, and senior guard Taylor Barnette (Lexington, Ky.) joined him on the Preseason All-OVC Men's Basketball Team.

On the heels of a 10th postseason appearance in the last 11 years, Belmont returns 80 percent of its offensive production from last season's 20-win team.

Belmont received 16 of 24 first-place votes in the OVC East. Tennessee State garnered six first-place votes to place second. Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky each received one first-place vote to stand third and fifth, respectively. Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State rounded out the East Division predicted order of finish.

Murray State garnered 21 of 24 first-place votes to earn top billing in the OVC West. Eastern Illinois, Austin Peay, UT Martin, SIU Edwardsville and Southeast Missouri followed in the West Division predicted order of finish.

Bradds, who was named 2016 OVC Player of the Year, Honorable Mention AP All-American, and All-District by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), led the nation in field goal percentage (.714) for a second straight season.

In fact, through 100 career games, Bradds' field goal percentage (.690; 507-of-735) ranks first in NCAA Division I men's basketball since the statistical category was first tracked in 1948.

One of the most consistent frontcourt players in college basketball, Bradds has scored in double figures in 54 of his last 65 games, including 12 games of 20 or more points last season.

Ranked as the third-most efficient offensive player (behind only Alex Peters of Valparaiso and Devin Cannady of Princeton) returning to college basketball by noted statistician Ken Pomeroy, Bradds was named to the Julius Erving Award Watch List last week.

Bradds ranked among OVC leaders in five statistical categories, including fourth in scoring (17.6) and second in rebounding (9.2).

He also set program and conference records with his 15-for-16, 32-point performance in the 2016 OVC Tournament versus Austin Peay. The Jamestown, Ohio native earned Legends Classic Subregional Most Valuable Player honors after making 22 consecutive field goal attempts during a three-game stretch.

Heading into his senior season, Bradds has 1,340 career points and 675 career rebounds.

Barnette, who was also tabbed Preseason All-OVC by USA Today and Lindy's among others, ranks among the top sharpshooters in the conference with 177 career 3-point field goals.

The Lexington, Ky. native averaged 10.6 points and 2.1 assists per game last season. He is expected to assume a greater scoring role following the graduation of 3-time All-OVC guard Craig Bradshaw.

Barnette has 35 career double figure scoring games and sank the game-winning shot in the 2015 OVC Championship to propel the Bruins to their seventh NCAA Tournament.

In regards to overall OVC champion, Belmont received 16 of 24 first-place votes.

Belmont was also tabbed as the overall OVC champion – and Bradds as the OVC Preseason Player of the Year – in the media poll released Oct. 21.

The 2017 OVC Basketball Championship will take place March 1-4 at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. The top two teams in the regular season standings will earn byes into the semifinals, with the third and fourth seeds earning byes to the quarterfinal round.

Belmont University men's basketball is one of only three NCAA Division I programs to earn seven automatic berths to the NCAA Tournament in the last 11 years (Gonzaga, Kansas). The Bruins have won 15 conference championships since 2006 - third-most nationally over that span (Gonzaga, Kansas). Belmont has received national Top 25 poll votes and earned a Top 100 RPI each of the last six seasons. Belmont University men's basketball boasts an NCAA-leading 14 CoSIDA Academic All-America selections since 2001 and is one of only three NCAA Division I programs to make the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) Honor Roll every year of existence.