EVANSVILLE, Ind. - - Belmont University men's basketball has been picked as the overall Ohio Valley Conference champion, as the league office unveiled its 2019-20 Men's Basketball Predicted Order of Finish at OVC Basketball Media Day Tuesday.
On the heels of 13 postseason invitations in the last 14 years and having won 17 conference championships since 2006 – third-most nationally over that span behind only Gonzaga and Kansas – Belmont has earned a reputation as one of the most respected and consistent programs in the country.
Head coach Casey Alexander welcomes 10 returning letterwinners from a Bruin team that won 27 games a year ago and earned an NCAA Tournament at-large bid and tournament victory.
Despite losing two of the program's most decorated players in Dylan Windler and Kevin McClain – not to mention Hall of Fame coach Rick Byrd – Belmont narrowly outdistanced Murray State for the league's top billing.
Belmont received 17 of 24 first-place votes in the preseason poll; Murray State claimed the remaining seven. Jacksonville State, Austin Peay, UT Martin and Eastern Kentucky rounded out the top half of the predicted standings.
"I think the preseason poll is a reflection of the program and our consistency finishing at or near the top of the standings," Alexander said. "This team should have championship expectations, but we have a lot of progress to make if we're going to see that to fruition."
Muszynski was named 2019 OVC Freshman of the Year, All-OVC First Team and OVC All-Newcomer Team, and delivered one of the most productive freshman seasons in program history.
The 6-11 center recorded 25 double figure scoring games and rose to the occasion on the biggest stages; including 20 points, six assists and three blocks shots at Murray State and 16 points vs. Temple in the NCAA Tournament.
Muszynski ranked among OVC leaders in six statistical categories, and was top 25 nationally in field goal percentage (.604) and blocked shots per game (2.19). His 89 assists ranked second nationally for post players (Ethan Happ, Wisconsin).
A finalist for 2019 Kyle Macy Award - presented to the top freshman in college basketball - Muszynski was one of only six players in America last season to record at least 70 assists and 70 blocked shots.
The Pickerington, Ohio native joined NBA Champion Ian Clark as the second Belmont player of the NCAA Division I era to earn national Freshman All-America honors (Basketball Times).
Not to be outdone, Murphy spearheaded a Belmont offense that ranked second nationally in scoring offense in 2019. Murphy ranked second in the OVC and 14th nationally in assists per game (6.5), while recording 18 games of six or more assists.
In his first season, the 6-2 guard led the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.61).
Murphy established several program records, including single-game record for assists (16, at UT Martin (2/28/19) and freshman single-season record for assists (214). Murphy narrowly missed a triple-double in his campaign debut vs. Illinois State (11/10/18) and handed out the game-winning assist in Belmont's victory at UCLA (12/15/18).
"Nick and Grayson had exceptional freshman seasons, especially considering the impact Dylan (Windler) and Kevin (McClain) had on last year's team," Alexander added. "The next step for them is to transition from being complementary players to being leaders and go-to guys for this team; both are exceedingly capable."
The 2020 OVC Basketball Championship is set for March 4-7 at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana.
For a 17th straight season, the live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network and ESPN+.
Alexander is one of only 10 coaches outside power conferences to win 52 or more games the last two seasons.
Belmont season tickets – which include the entire men's and women's basketball home schedule – are on sale now at belmontbruins.com/tickets. Belmont fans can call or TEXT 615.460.BALL (2255).
Belmont University men's basketball has earned postseason invitations 13 of the last 14 seasons, including eight berths to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have won 17 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 nine 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 14 consecutive seasons (BYU, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina, San Diego State). Belmont University men's basketball boasts an NCAA-leading 17 CoSIDA Academic All-America selections since 2001 and is the only NCAA Division I program to make the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) Honor Roll every year of existence.