DAYTON, Ohio (CBSNewYork/AP) — LIU Brooklyn won the Northeastern Conference tournament title for the third year in a row to extend its string of NCAA Tournament trips.
Sure, the Blackbirds have experience in the dance. But the school is still looking for its first ever tourney win.
“I do think they have an advantage being here on this stage,” said James Madison coach Matt Brady.
LIU Brooklyn will square off against fellow 16-seed James Madison in the NCAA Tournament’s First Four on Wednesday night.
Although six Blackbirds have played in NCAA games — LIU Brooklyn lost as a 15 seed to North Carolina 102-87 in 2011 and last year lost to top-seeded Michigan State 89-67 as a 16 seed in the second round — first-year coach Jack Perri is in charge of a team for the first time in such rarefied air.
“It’s a great positive to have all this experience,” said Perri, elevated after seven years as an assistant when Jim Ferry moved to Duquesne. “Last year against Michigan State, our guys didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor. Certainly, this year going up against a like opponent, there’s definitely more of a sense of urgency to try to get a win here.”
Point guard Jason Brickman, who leads the nation in assists at 8.5 per game, sounded as if he were playing a pickup game back in the borough.
“We’re going to be comfortable in this environment and atmosphere and playing on national TV,” he said. “It’s definitely an advantage.”
The winner draws top-seeded Indiana (27-6) on Friday, also at the University of Dayton Arena.
Even though this is the first time LIU Brooklyn has had to go the route of the First Four, Perri doesn’t look at a so-called play-in game as that big of a deal.
“What’s following after our game is one of the best teams in the country, so this is a little bit different that way,” he said. “But we’ve really embraced this. We’ve had a lot of adversity this year. To get to this point was a major accomplishment for our group.”
Meanwhile, James Madison waited 19 years between NCAA appearances.
Leading scorer and rebounder Rayshawn Goins will have to wait 20 minutes longer.
Goins was suspended by Brady for the first half after his arrest over the weekend on charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing justice. The outcome may revolve on how well James Madison handles its latest adversity.
“It’s just a blip on the radar screen,” Brady said of Goins’ troubles. “We’re not going to let it impact our team, our performance, certainly our mindset.”
Supporting that theory, the Dukes were 1-0 this season without Goins in the starting lineup.
All 68 teams in the NCAA tournament have persevered through injuries, suspensions, departures and other problems. But LIU Brooklyn’s players aren’t so sure that Goins’ absence might not be different.
“Them not having him in the first half very well could be a problem for them,” LIU Brooklyn guard C.J. Garner said. “But I’m not sure about that. We’re going to go out there and play hard and just see how things go.”
Even the Dukes recognize that the Goins situation makes things more difficult for a team that has no NCAA experience.
“It’s definitely going to affect us because we play through him,” said JMU point guard Devon Moore, who has assisted on many of Goins’ points this year. “It’s going to be hard for the first half, not having him. But Coach has drawn up a good game plan for us and we’re definitely going to try to stick to it.”
Goins, a 6-foot-6 senior who averages 12.7 points and 7.4 rebounds a game, was arrested early Sunday morning, hours before James Madison (20-14) found out what team and where it was playing in the tournament. Police in Harrisonburg, Va., said they were called to break up a party and Goins was shouting obscenities at them and “enticing the crowd.” He was not arrested on site, according to the police, for fear the crowd would “turn riotous.”
Brady, who suspended Goins on Monday, said his team had frequently gone to a smaller lineup this season, sending Goins to the bench. He said it wouldn’t be a huge transition to go without him for 20 minutes.
LIU will try to push the pace and play to their high-scoring style.
“We’re trying to get the game in the 80s,” Perri said.
Will LIU advance? Make your prediction in the comments!
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