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2013 NCAA tournament: Previewing Belmont-Arizona and talking about Nashville

A chat with Belmont Bruins blog The Belmont Byrd Cage to preview the Arizona Wildcats' 2013 NCAA tournament opener.


Our preview with Belmont blog The Byrd Cage can be found at their site here. Below, we got some answers from Brett McReynold's regarding the Belmont Bruins, how they match up with Arizona, and some things about Nashville you might not know.

1) A quick peek at the Belmont roster, and it looks like the Bruins have a ton of shooters, including guard Ian Clark's 18.1point-per-game average. How do the Bruins play on offense, and how do they do their damage?

I'll keep it simple. Midway through the season, Ian Clark led the nation in 3P%. He had a few games where he was knocked around, but the guy's shot is one of THA sweetest. It really is amazing to watch. He has a unique ability to create a shot even when double teamed. We are most effective when our under-sized 5 man, Trevor Noack (his nickname is the Hay-Bailer and you will soon see why), is able to get in and around the boards, and our clutch PG Kerron Johnson drives it home with ease. That being said, it seems like y'all have some bigguns' under the net.

2) Arizona fans all want to know if Rick Byrd likes zone defenses. The Wildcats would be better off not having to deal with that sort of thing.

If I know anything about Coach Byrd, I know he has something up his sleeve that will destroy you. That being said, he typically sticks to man-to-man.

3) I'm guessing that the Nick Johnson/Ian Clark matchup is going to be the thing to watch. Who else could prove vital in bringing down the No. 6 seed Wildcats?

I guess its like the old saying goes, "It's damn hard to guard a bunny."

Okay - no one says that because no one would in their right mind accept the nickname of "bunny" or the more shameful plural of the noun "bunnies".

I know a lot of the Byrd Cagers may have different answers here, but I'm going to say JJ Mann. This Junior G-F is in prime mode to dominate Wildcats, the Pistol Offense, or any other thing Tim Tebow can't effectively maneuver professionally. Three rebounds, 10 blocks, and 8 assists away from a quadruple-double in our harrowing OVC Championship win against NBA prospect Isaiah Canaan's Murray State Racers. JJ Mann has shown us that when he is the man, we win games. We are 1-5 when Mann scores 10 points or less. But, In all seriousness, when JJ can provide clutch threes while Ian is being double-teamed or face guarded, it takes the life out of opponents. It spreads out the defense, gives Ian that extra inch, and gives point guard Kerron Johnson the lane he needs to take it inside. JJ also makes the classiest of lay-ups.

4) Speaking of Clark, how does this guy score at such a high rate? Is he more than a catch-and-shoot guy, and how do you think he'll handle Johnson's ball pressure?

Have you heard of Isaiah Canaan? This guy was last year's hot shtuf, could have gone in the first round of the NBA draft last year, and decided to stay to get his degree and go to the NCAA Tournament. Needless to say, Belmont did not let this happen.

We didn't let him get his degree and we definitely didn't let him take his team to the tournament. The reason I bring up this punk, is that he is talented. He was named OVC Player of the Year. He and Ian Clark were co-named OVC Player of the Year. Ian is on that level. But something not many are talking about is that Ian Clark was also named OVC Defensive Player of the Year. Isn't that the tie-breaker, OVC Committee? The answer is yes. Be afraid. Be very afraid. As far as "Bunnies" is concerned, it is going to be tough. But Ian's been able to play the #2 hardest non-conference schedule in the nation and he's ready.

5) I'm sure the culture in Nashville -- and at Belmont -- is like night and day compared to that of Tucson and the University of Arizona. I can imagine there are less pool parties there, yes?

I must say, there are some pool parties here, yes. But Belmont students are more concerned with (and I don't want to speak for everyone here) playing shows. Okay. Drinking and playing shows. Or . . . just drinking and watching shows. One time, I went to a show that had an after party at a house and someone set up a stage for an after-show. It really is getting ridiculous. But I CAN play guitar and swim. I think we win this question?

6) Do you see Arizona's size as being a problem for the Bruins?

The short answer? YES. As the 13th tallest team in the nation, I am a little afraid. And with four players that are one-inch taller than our 5, Trevor Noack (6-7), it does make me uncomfortable. I mean, that is just too tall. But Trevor has held his own this season and has bailed some serious hay. He is 6-7 and 240 pounds of pure barbed-wire.

7) Can you tell us a little about this Rick Byrd fella? It would appear that he's good at coaching or something, considering he's been around for ever and ever.

First of all, Coach Byrd is not a fella. He is God. His games are Belmont's central liturgical act, and when we come to the table, he breaks the bread. Okay, was a bit far - but he is a mastermind. He is 1 of only 11 coaches in the NCAA with over 600 wins. That is impressive. He has coached Belmont from NAIA to NCAA Divison I and has taken his teams to the NCAA Tournament 6 times in 8 years in two different conferences. You have to respect that. Needless to say, we don't want to think about his retirement.

8) Given what you know about Arizona, how confident are you in theBruins' chances? Looking across the web, it looks like Belmont is a popular upset pick.

I see the upset picks everywhere, and I used to be excited about that. Needless to say, the Bruin faithful have grown weary as we have heard this time and time again.

But let me say this sir, I am more optimistic of our chances this year than any other. However, I would have much rather played Memphis. I really think this Arizona team deserves a 5, or even a 4 seed this year. You have had some impressive wins.

9) Favorite Belmont graduate: Who is yours?

How do I name thee? Let me count the country music artists and American Idol finalists...
Most people would say Brad Paisley, Trisha Yearwood, Josh Turner or LeeAnn Womack here, but I'm not. Let's go farther back to the golden age of Belmont entertainment, the one and only, Minnie Pearl.

10) Give us three reasons why we should go to Nashville. And what arethree important places (restaurants, dive bars, etc.) that someone whowants to get the real feel of the city should visit?

As one of the few native Nashvillians I feel confident I can answer these and not embarrass ourselves in front of the nation. Nashville is known around here for not only country music, but as a thriving area for quality healthcare companies, a strong focus on the arts in all forms, and as a thriving place for start-ups businesses. So, without further ado:

Three Reasons to Visit Nashville:

1. Music. Obviously. And it is not just country. From Jack White to Kelly Clarkson, musicians choose to live in our creative environment. And you really notice when you are in another state at a bar and an awful band comes up to play. Most musicians here are actually good. They're all just poor. Except Mort.

2. Food and Beverage. From haute French cuisine in East Nashville to the Taco Trucks open until 4 am on Nolensville Road, Nashville is genuinely serious about their food. From the two craft-brewed growler filling establishments that have opened within 5 miles of my house in the past 4 months, Nashville is starting to come into it's own in focusing on local food and beer. And they are moving fast.

3. The people. It really is true. People are nice down here. I can't tell you how many times I've left my phone at a restaurant or at a bar and I find it with the host the next day. People learn your name here, and they genuinely like to see you. I like that about us.

Three Places to Go in Nashville:

1. The Ryman Auditorium. Yes, everyone says that. But, yes, it is one of the few times where everyone is right. As the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, the pews still in the venue, and the fact it was an old church- the place feels magical. From Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn in it's beginnings to Bon Iver and Modest Mouse now- I love hearing every musical act say they feel honored to just stand on the stage.

2. The Patterson House. Named the 12th best bar in America by GQ, this further proves my point that Nashville is making waves in the food and beverage industry. It doesn't even have a sign it is so indie. But the dark, prohibition-era atmosphere and house made cocktails to die for, make it an evening well spent.

3. Robert's Western World. Skip all the honky tonks - and no, I don't want to hear anything else about Tootsie's. Robert's is a legitimate honky tonk with amazing musicians. Many of you probably have heard these musicians on your favorite albums you didn't even know about. You drink Jack Daniels here or Bud Heavy, and don't forget the fried-bologna sandwich. A true Nashville staple. Because, after all, you can't forget where you came from.