Country singers and an 800-win coach: Who is Maryland’s NCAA tournament opponent Belmont?

Country singers and an 800-win coach: Who is Maryland’s NCAA tournament opponent Belmont?
Belmont head coach Rick Byrd works the bench during the first half of a First Four game of the NCAA college basketball tournament against Temple. Belmont won and now faces Maryland on Thursday. (John Minchillo / AP)

No. 6 seed Maryland learned late Tuesday night that it will face No. 11 seed Belmont in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday afternoon (shortly after the 12:40 p.m. game ends) in Jacksonville, Fla.

Belmont defeated Temple, 81-70, in the First Four and in doing so might have become the new darling of the tournament. So just who is Belmont?


Location: Nashville, Tenn.

Mascot: Bruins

Famous alumni: It should come as no surprise based on its location, but Belmont boasts a who’s who in country music among its alumni, according to Wide Open Country: Brad Paisley, Trisha Yearwood, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley (of Florida Georgia Line), Minnie Pearl, Chris Young and we could go on and on.

Enrollment: 8,300 students (6,700 undergraduates)

Founded: The college was founded by two women in 1889, initially as a women’s college.

Fun fact: Belmont was the site of the 2008 town hall presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Conference: Ohio Valley Conference

Record: 27-5

Coach: Rick Byrd won the 800th game of his career last month, joining Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and Coastal Carolina’s Cliff Ellis as the active Division I coaches with more than 800 wins, according to the Associated Press. Byrd has been the coach at Belmont since 1986. His team’s victory over Temple on Tuesday was his first NCAA tournament win in eight attempts. He also endeared himself to fans after Tuesday’s win, praising Temple coach Fran Dunphy, who is retiring.

Key players: 6-8 guard/forward Dylan Windler (20.8 points per game, 10.8 rebounds per game); 6-3 G Kevin McClain (16.7 ppg, 4.0 assists per game); 6-11 center Nick Muszynski (14.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.2 blocks per game)

How they got here: Belmont got an at-large bid to the tournament. Belmont tied for first with Murray State in the conference regular season, but lost to Murray State in the conference championship game.

How it fared against other tournament teams: Belmont is No. 50 in RPI (compared with the Terps’ No. 24 ranking), per, and split its two games with No. 52 Murray State (a No. 12 seed in the tournament); defeated No. 77 Temple (also a No. 11 seed) on Tuesday; and lost to No. 10 Purdue (a No. 3 seed in the tournament). Other highlights from the season include two wins over No. 49 Lipscomb as well as at No. 109 UCLA. Low points were losses to No. 112 Jacksonville State and No. 205 Green Bay.