Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

Bellarmine already a popular mid-major in just its second season in Division I

MORGANTOWN — Question: What do you get when you’re the coach of a basketball team in only its second season of Division I and the non-conference schedule reads Purdue, Gonzaga and UCLA?

Answer: Fired.

That may be the case in some situations, which is what maybe makes Scott Davenport’s circumstances at Bellarmine unique.

The Knights (2-5), located in Louisville, Ky., will head into the WVU Coliseum at 7 p.m. Tuesday to face the Mountaineers (5-1) as another building mid-major, but one that has already dealt with a world of success.


That success came for Davenport, who was hired at Bellarmine in 2005, at the Division II level, where the Knights won the 2011 national championship and also played in the Division II Final Four in 2012, 2015 and 2017.

“They had great success at the Division II level and they took the next step,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “Scotty does a great job with them. I knew Scotty years and years ago when he was a high school coach. He’s got a great relationship in the coaching fraternity with people.”

At the Division I level, Bellarmine joined the ASUN Conference last season and nearly won the regular-season championship in its first year as a member.

A year later, the Knights have loaded up their non-conference schedule that already included games against three top 10-ranked teams.

“It’s a lot of things. Money has something to do with it for sure,” Huggins said in explaining why a smaller school would volunteer itself to play this type of schedule. “Being able to take your team and travel has a lot to do with it.

“It’s also huge for recruiting. Scotty can go into a home and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to play the No. 1 and No. 2 team in the country.’ And then throw out all the high-majors they have that have any sort of reputation, kids are going to say, ‘I want to play there.’”

It doesn’t do much for the overall winning percentage, though.

“I don’t think Scotty cares about that,” Huggins continued. “He’s been coaching for 100 years.”

Aside from the connection between Huggins and Davenport, WVU guard Sean McNeil also has a connection with the Knights.

Coming out of high school in Union, Ky., McNeil’s top college offer was with Bellarmine, still a Division II school at the time.

In the way McNeil told the story in 2019, he enrolled and attended Bellarmine for a week’s worth of classes, before dropping out.

“I went through orientation week and I was there for two classes on a Thursday,” before leaving, McNeil said. “It didn’t have anything to do with how I was recruited. I just didn’t give myself a chance to adjust to college life and the atmosphere. I was on my own for the first time and panicked and just left. It was all on me.”

According to WVU guard Taz Sherman, McNeil has told his story of his days at Bellarmine to his teammates.

“He’s talked to me about it, but that’s his story to share,” Sherman said. “I think he may go off (Tuesday). I just have a feeling.”

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WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: WVU Coliseum
TV: ESPN+ (online subscription only)