Belmont has been consistently great for much of the past decade. But the success has been mostly relative to other so-called mid-majors, and that's why I've forever been skeptical. Never skeptical that the Bruins could win their league, obviously. Just skeptical that they ever deserved Top 25 votes because, though they've won lots of games, the Bruins have rarely recorded victories over significant opponents.
That changed this weekend.
Belmont finally got a victory over a Top 25 team on Sunday, and J.J. Mann was among the main reasons. He sank the game-winning 3-pointer with 13.1 seconds remaining and finished with a career-high 28 points in an 83-80 win at North Carolina that doubled as Belmont's first over a ranked opponent since December 2003.
"It's something you dream about as a kid, and something that you pretend this summer in the gym," Mann told reporters afterward. "You're saying, `All right, game winner against North Carolina, here you go.' And then it happens. It's just unbelievable."
Mann's 28-point effort came just three days after he scored 23 in a win over an Indiana State team that subsequently beat Notre Dame, meaning Mann averaged 25.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two meaningful victories over the past week. That's good enough to make the 6-foot-6 senior the CBSSports.com National Player of the Week, and that's exactly the kind of week I'm going to be looking for each week.
This award will never be strictly about statistics.
Those matters, sure.
But the CBSSports.com National Player of the Week will almost always be somebody who led his team to significant victories while posting significant numbers. Mann fits that description perfectly this week. So congratulations to him and his program.