In a new national spotlight and on a new home court in Freedom Hall, the Bellarmine men’s basketball team greatly exceeded expectations in their debut Division I season.
Under longtime Coach Scott Davenport, the Knights ended the regular season 13-7 and were 10-3 in ASUN Conference play, finishing second in the regular season standings. They went into their first-ever ASUN Conference Tournament as the No. 2 seed, ultimately going out with a quarterfinal loss to Stetson.
“Those players are a phenomenal representative for everything that's right in college athletics, on and off the court.”
The Knights then headed to Daytona Beach, Florida, for the 2021 College Basketball Invitational, where a loss to Pepperdine on March 23 finally ended their season with a record of 14-8.
“Those players are a phenomenal representative for everything that's right in college athletics, on and off the court,” Davenport said after the Pepperdine game. “The way that they represent their families, our university, our entire community, it's absolutely tremendous.”
The team’s overall performance—particularly a 10-game midseason winning streak that put the Knights atop the conference for several weeks and drew plenty of national media attention—renewed discussions about whether the NCAA should allow teams reclassifying to Division I to immediately become eligible for the NCAA Tournament. Currently, NCAA rules require reclassifying teams to sit out for four seasons before they can fully partake in March Madness.
At one point, ASUN Commissioner Ted Gumbart tweeted: "We are also working towards opening the @NCAA tournaments to all of Division I. Currently, individuals can transfer from DII to DI and play. If a whole school, such as @bellarmineU @north_alabama or a @Merrimack transfers to DI, those teams have to sit out FOUR YEARS. Not right."
“I don't think any of us know how many people they touched. The stories that we get from all across the country, alumni, just basketball fans in general,” Davenport said on Tuesday. “I got a long email today from a high school staff in New Jersey that they've been studying our offense. I couldn't even tell you the city. That's a reflection on these players. What I reflect on is that I can't wait to coach them again.”