Ohio officially opens its 2022-23 season in Nashville, Tennessee, Monday with a game against Belmont. Ohio won a home game against Belmont last season, defeating it 92-80 in The Convo to open the 2021-22 season.
Here is everything you need to know about Ohio’s first official opponent of the season:
Casey Alexander enters his fourth year as Belmont’s head coach after taking over from Rick Byrd before the 2019-20 season. Byrd had been Belmont’s head coach since 1986.
Alexander is 77-19 as Belmont’s head coach, and those 77 wins are the fifth most in the nation since he took over. He also led Belmont to an Ohio Valley Conference title and secured an NCAA Tournament bid in his first year as head coach.
The Bruins are playing their first season in the Missouri Valley Conference this year after a decade in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Belmont has lost six of its top eight scorers from last season, and two of the only three players on the roster to average at least 10 points per game.
6-foot-11 center Nick Muszynski, who averaged 15.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season, has departed. However, the more notable loss is arguably Will Richard. The sophomore guard averaged 12.1 points per game and was second on the team in rebounding at 6.0 rebounds per game during his freshman season, but he transferred to Florida.
Luke Smith, Grayson Murphy, JaCobi Wood, Tate Pierson and Caleb Hollander are all gone as well, with Wood transferring to Murray State and the other four graduating.
Although Belmont has lost a significant amount of talent, its best player is back. Senior Ben Sheppard, who led the team in scoring last year at 16.2 points per game and scored 25 against Ohio last season, has returned for his fourth season at Belmont.
Sheppard was named to the All-OVC First Team last season and has been selected to the Preseason All-MVC First Team this season.
The only other returning player for Belmont to average more than 10 minutes per game last season is junior forward Michael Shanks.
Belmont was picked to finish sixth in the MVC Preseason poll, the first time it has been picked to finish as low as sixth since 2001-02, its first season in a Division I conference.
The Bruins have finished either first or second in their conference for 17 consecutive seasons, but that will be a tall order this year.