InsideHigherEd.com—an online trade publication for higher education—recently released its picks for both men’s and women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament Brackets based solely on academic standards, and the Belmont Bruins of Nashville, Tennessee topped both brackets. The men’s team beat Yale University, as well as Maryland, Temple and Baylor, on their way to securing the NCAA bracket academic championship as published by InsideHigherEd. This marks the third time Belmont has claimed the InsideHigherEd Academic Bracket Championship, previously winning in 2013 and 2015.
Meanwhile for the women, Belmont made it all the way to the Championship game, “defeating” some fellow academic powerhouses, including first round opponent South Carolina, as well as North Carolina, Bucknell, Kentucky and Texas. Belmont’s only loss was in the title game to Stanford University.
Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “On two consecutive days Belmont student-athletes have appeared at the top of a national bracket based on academic prowess. This is the ultimate victory for me in March Madness, recognizing our teams are giving their all on the court and in the classroom. I am so proud of all our student athletes have accomplished and grateful to see Belmont so well represented on a national stage.”
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 N.C.A.A.’s multiyear 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 men’s basketball currently boasts a perfect 1000-point APR as well as a 100 percent graduation success rate.
The Belmont basketball teams demonstrate amazingly consistent talent on the court as well. The Belmont men secured an at-large NCAA tournament bid and participated in their eighth NCAA Tournament of the past 14 years. The Belmont women recently won their fourth straight OVC tournament championship, leading to their fourth consecutive trip to the Big Dance.
The Inside Higher Ed academic bracket is just the beginning of a phenomenal story in college basketball. Here are a few stats to consider:
In the Classroom and the Community
- Belmont women’s basketball has been named a Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll Team in each of the past five years with team cumulative GPAs above 3.4 each year.
- Belmont WBB had a team 3.595 GPA in 2017-18, its highest cumulative GPA in that stretch, which ranked 13th among WBB teams nationally at the NCAA Division I level.
- Belmont WBB is led by senior Jenny Roy, a 2018-19 CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree and OVC Academic Medal of Honor recipient.
- Belmont men’s basketball has 18 straight years with 3.0 or higher team GPA
- Belmont MBB is also home to 17 Academic All-American selections since 2001 (leads NCAA), including senior Dylan Windler this season
- Belmont MBB is one of only three NCAA Division I programs to make the Academic Progress rate Honor Roll every year
- Members of both teams serve in the community every year and participate in annual overseas mission trips, among other activities
Women’s Basketball Stats
- Belmont has won four straight Ohio Valley Conference championships and joins perennial national power UConn as the only teams in the nation to have won their past four conference tournament titles.
- Belmont has won four straight conference tournament championships for the first time in the program’s NCAA era.
- The Bruins rank fourth in the nation in made 3-pointers with 10.4 per game.
- The Bruins have won at least 26 games in three consecutive seasons and have at least 24 wins in each of the past four seasons.
Men’s Basketball Stats
- Belmont men’s basketball has won 17 NCAA Division I Conference Titles since 2006 — Only Kansas and Gonzaga have won more conference championships over that span
- Belmont has earned postseason invitations 13 of the last 14 years, including eight automatic berths to the NCAA Tournament.
- The Bruins rank top 25 nationally in 12 statistical categories, including first in assists per game and total assists, second in scoring offense and assist to turnover ratio, fifth in field goal percentage, and sixth in offensive efficiency and defensive rebounding.
Men’s Basketball Head Coach Rick Byrd
- Coach Byrd is in his 33rd season at Belmont University
- Ranks 5th among all active NCAA Div. I head coaches in career wins with 804
- Recognized this year as a candidate for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2019
- Named a finalist this year for both the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year Award and Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award
- Received the NCAA Bob Frederick Award in 2013 for his lifelong commitment to sportsmanship, ethical conduct and fair play
- Inducted into both the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame