Ohio has a target on its back. After a dominant run through the Mid-American Conference Tournament and a stint in the NCAA Tournament last year, Ohio begins its 2021-22 season with everything to lose. It’s the team to beat in the MAC, and its nonconference schedule will be difficult to navigate.
Expectations are sky high, but the Bobcats aren’t focused on expectations. Last season is behind them. Instead, they’re preparing for the games in front of them. The Bobcats open their season in The Convo with a game against Belmont on Tuesday night.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of Ohio’s season opener:
Venue: The Convo
Time: 7 p.m.
How to watch: The game will be available on ESPN+.
How to listen: Ohio IMG Sports Network
Meet the opponent
02 Grayson Murphy (6’3’‘, 190 pounds)
03 Luke Smith (6’0’‘, 170 pounds)
22 Ben Sheppard (6’6’‘, 185 pounds)
10 Caleb Hollander (6’8’‘, 245 pounds)
33 Nick Muszynski (6’11’‘, 245 pounds)
Things to know
Belmont’s returning production
The Bruins are returning all but two players from last season, and retain their core lineup. In 2020-21, they averaged 81.3 points per game and shot 48.9% from the field as a team. The Bruins lost just four games last season, including the Ohio Valley Conference Championship to Morehead State.
The two players that are not returning this season — Mitch Listau and Rilee Epley — weren’t big contributors. Listau averaged just 10.4 minutes and 3.1 points per game, and Epley never received time on the court. Belmont’s core lineup remains and has another year of experience under its belt.
Belmont coach Casey Alexander is entering his third season at the helm. Alexander compiled a 52-11 record in his first two years and helped Belmont win two consecutive OVC regular season championships. Alexander also coached Belmont to victory in the 2020 OVC Championship, which led to a bid in the NCAA Tournament before it was canceled due to COVID-19.
Belmont leads the all-time series 2-0. The two programs last faced each other on Nov. 29, 2014, when Ohio lost 83-81 after Belmont guard Craig Bradshow made a layup with 0.2 seconds left in the game.
Player to watch
Muszynski — The graduate was named the Preseason OVC Player of the Year and is on the watchlist for the Lou Henson National Player of the Year and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award watchlists. Last season, Muszynski averaged 15 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and shot 59 percent from the field. Muszynski will be the biggest player on the court. He’s taller — and heavier — than every player on Ohio’s active roster and will likely be the problem child on Tuesday night.