InsideHigherEd.com—an online trade publication for higher education—released today its own picks for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Bracket based solely on academic standards, and Nashville’s Belmont Bruins landed in the Elite Eight of the Tournament before being beaten by the University of Virginia. On the road to the Championship, Belmont “defeated” some fellow academic powerhouses, including Duke, Mercer and Quinnipiac.
The Inside Higher Ed website annually completes an NCAA bracket based on each team’s academic performance, with teams in the bracket “competing” based on Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores, the NCAA’s multi-year measure of a team’s classroom performance. If teams tie on APR, Inside Higher Ed then moves to Graduation Success Rate, which measures the proportion of athletes on track to graduate within six years.
Belmont’s women’s basketball program finds itself among the nation’s elite academically. Last year also marked the Bruins’ third consecutive year in the top 15 of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 team honor roll, the only school representing the state of Tennessee on the elite list for the 2016-17 academic year.
In his first full academic year at Belmont, Head Coach Bart Brooks said, “One of the main reasons I was excited to join the Belmont community and be a part of this program is because academics are important, not just to the University community but to everyone in the athletics department. Our players take that to another level with their competitiveness in the classroom, just like they compete on the court. It shows how well-rounded our student-athletes are, how much they care about school, and that we have some really gifted and talented young ladies that are going to go on and do some really big things once they’re done playing basketball.”
Across the board Belmont Athletics is known for its commitment to academic success with the men’s basketball team winning the Inside Higher Ed Academic Bracket in 2013 and 2015. In addition, the University has claimed its conference’s all academic award 14 of the past 16 years. This year, senior Kylee Smith has been named to the 2017-18 CoSIDA Academic All-America® Division I Women’s Basketball Team. Smith is the first women’s basketball player to earn CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in program history and is the only student-athlete in the entire Ohio Valley Conference to the make the list.
Belmont defeated UT Martin, 63-56, March 2 to claim the 2018 Ohio Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Championship and an automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. The Bruins entered postseason play as one of the nation’s hottest teams as they ride the fourth-longest active winning streak in all of NCAA Division I at 22 – a program-best mark. The team finished the regular season winners of 27 of its last 28 games and has won its last 46-consecutive OVC contests, the second longest streak in the nation behind No. 1 UConn.
Belmont learned on “Selection Monday” that its No. 12 seed women’s basketball team will face the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils on Saturday, March 17 in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Tip-off time is 11 a.m. Eastern (10 Central) from Stegeman Coliseum at the University of Georgia. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
Tickets for the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament in Athens, Ga. are available here.