Ticket punched: Belmont becomes first No. 1 seed to go dancing

Graham Watson
March 6, 2011

A No. 1 seed finally did what it was supposed to do -- win

Belmont defeated North Florida 87-46 to capture the Atlantic Sun Tournament championship and become the first No. 1 seed to win its conference tournament.

No. 1 Murray State was ousted in the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Tournament on Friday and No. 1 Coastal Carolina fell to UNC-Asheville in the finals Saturday afternoon.

"Coming into the game, we didn't want to get knocked of at all," sophomore guard Ian Clark told Yahoo! Sports during a phone interview. "North Florida made a great run in the tournament knocking off the No. 3 seed and the No. 2 seed and we just didn't want to be that third victory tonight. And I think the way we played tonight, we kind of proved it."

Belmont, whose 41-point victory is the largest in Atlantic Sun Tournament history, could start a trend of No. 1 seeds living up to the standard they set during the conference season.

Of the conference tournaments that end in the next couple days, and didn't give their top teams double byes, six No. 1 teams are all alive -- Vermont in the America East, George Mason in the Colonial, Fairfield in the Metro Atlantic, Missouri State in the Missouri Valley, and Western Carolina and College of Charleston in the Southern Conference.

However, out of those six teams, only Missouri State is in the finals.

Belmont's tournament dominance was expected. The Bruins lost just one conference game -- Jan. 5 against Lipscomb -- and finished the season 30-4, making them the current Division I leader in wins (though Kansas is 29-2 heading into its conference tournament).

Toward the end of the game against North Florida, the camera panned to a Belmont fan holding a sign asking for a No. 10 seed. Despite Belmont's record, that request might be a tall order. The Bruins have an RPI of 56, but lost the three games against the Big Six conferences (Tennessee twice and Vanderbilt) it played this year.

Still, the way the Bruins played in the final month of the regular season -- beating opponents by an average of 18.4 points -- and beating its three conference tournament opponents by an average of 21.3 points per game, makes it an attractive seeding option.

Belmont has played in three NCAA Tournaments in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and each time it was seeded No. 15 and lost to the No. 2. The Bruins are probably best know for their 71-70 loss to Duke in the first round of the 2008 tournament.

"We don't have a lot of guys with NCAA Tournament experience, but we have two guys that played on the team when they went down to the wire with Duke," Clark said. "And they know what it's like to be there. They can only give us advice and help us and motivate us on the type of experience that we're about to have. But I think that a lot of our guys will be ready for the challenge.

"For our guys, it really doesn't matter who we play, We're going to come out and play hard against any opponent and were going to play the way Belmont plays."