NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Belmont University men's basketball opens the 2018-19 season Saturday vs. Illinois State.
Belmont went 24-9 last season - including victories over Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky and Murray State - earning a top 100 RPI for the eighth consecutive season.
Belmont is adjusting to life after the graduation of All-OVC performers Amanze Egekeze and Austin Luke. Egekeze scored 1,350 points while Luke ranks second in OVC history in assists (681). The duo led Belmont to three consecutive OVC championships.
In fact, Belmont welcomes 10 newcomers (four true freshman, five redshirt freshman, one first-year sophomore) this season; the most ever under head coach Rick Byrd in the NCAA Division I era. Only four NCAA Division I programs (FAU, Seattle, Missouri State, Duquesne) have more newcomers this season.
Senior All-America candidate Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.) was named Preseason OVC Player of the Year and Julius Erving Award Watch List. Windler was the only player in America to average 17.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists per game and shoot 40 percent from 3-point distance last season. Windler and fellow senior Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) were named Preseason All-OVC.
Belmont has won 285 games since 2007 - the most among all NCAA Division I program from the state of Tennessee - including Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Memphis.
Illinois State is picked by many to win the Missouri Valley Conference - ahead of 2018 Final Four participant Loyola Chicago.
Belmont last faced a current member of the Missouri Valley Conference Dec. 28, 2015, defeating Valparaiso, 85-81. The Crusaders won 30 games that season and reached the Postseason NIT Championship.
Belmont Director of Basketball Operations Dan Ryan is a 2017 Illinois State graduate. Ryan served as a three-year team manager for Dan Muller and the Redbird staff.
Fans are encouraged to arrive early; Curb Event Center doors will open at 5 p.m. CT. Ticketed fans and students are encouraged to use the Johnson Center parking garage and the Belmont Boulevard side entrance (near the fountain) to the Curb Event Center.
Illinois State at Belmont Game Notes
Belmont University men's basketball has earned postseason invitations 12 of the last 13 seasons, including seven automatic berths to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have won 16 conference championships since 2006 - third-most nationally over that span (Gonzaga, Kansas). Belmont is one of only six NCAA Division I programs outside the Power 5 to post Top 100 RPIs eight consecutive seasons (BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary's (CA), San Diego State, Wichita State). Belmont is one of only nine NCAA Division I programs to win 19 or more games 13 consecutive seasons (BYU, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina, San Diego State). Belmont University men's basketball boasts an NCAA-leading 16 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.