Isn’t LIU Brooklyn the ones in the NCAAs?!
Since Sunday night when LIU Brooklyn learned that they will have to travel to Dayton, Ohio to play in a gently worded “first four” game against James Madison on Wednesday, LIU has had plenty of people pat them on the back, wrote and said nice things about them and their season, wished them good luck in their game, etc.
Of course, there are always things that come up or people who seem like they go out of their way to not give this program the respect that they are due and quite frankly have justifiably earned by winning not one, not two but three Northeast Conference championships in a row. A feat that has never happened before in the NEC 32-year history of the conference.
Yet, when Robert Morris, a team who I have plenty of respect for, gets announced that they are hosting an NIT game, against the University of Kentucky at home at the Sewell Center, people went nuts. Yes, that is right, an N-I-T game. Robert Morris was actually a trending topic in the US on Twitter Sunday night, if you can believe that. Was I as shocked any of hearing this news? Of course, I was. As a supporter of the NEC, when you hear that last season’s NCAA national champions have to play at Robert Morris, it’s open your eyes and makes you say “whoa”.
Am I happy for RMU? Yes, I’m genuinely am. It is a tremendous opportunity for them and they get to play Kentucky on their home floor, on ESPN. They couldn’t have gotten a better consolation prize for being NEC regular season champs and losing in the NEC semifinal round than playing on national TV against probably the biggest of big-time programs at home.
But let’s all come back down to Earth just a bit here. That is still the NIT. Not the NCAAs which LIU Brooklyn has qualified for three straight seasons, the goal of every team at the start of the season. Plus add the fact that the only reason the game is even being played at RMU is because Kentucky’s home floor, Rupp Arena, is unavailable because they are hosting the NCAA Tournament! Kentucky is actually the “home” team in this game, they are going to be wearing the white home jerseys, RMU has to wear the blue road jerseys. RMU didn’t earn anything here other than a trip to the NIT by being reglar season champs and then losing in the conference semifinal.
It is crazy to hear some people say that RMU might have gotten the better end of the deal with them hosting an NIT game over going to the NCAAs? Say what. Are you kidding?! In what planet is it better to play in the NIT than in the NCAA. Answer: none.
I don’t to mean to beat on RMU, I’m not annoyed with the school or the team at all. I’m annoyed at the overwhelming national coverage they are getting in comparison to the coverage LIU has been getting as a three-time conference champion over the last few days. Obviously, a lot of it is ESPN-created, what a shock. They are in love with John Calipari and Kentucky so any coverage of the Wildcats is icing on the cake for them. Add the story of the little guy playing the big guy at the little guy’s court on their network, ESPN couldn’t contain their excitement and was fully on board with their coverage of this. How do you make the NIT somewhat exciting and/or watchable? Do something like this of course.
Then you add insult to injury with guys like ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, who I’ll give him credit is an excellent bracketologist, but for some reason just hates the fact to give LIU any kind of credit for their accomplishments. ESPN.com puts out a team preview for every team making the NCAA tournament with Lunardi giving you his opinion of each team. Listen to his LIU preview:
So Lunardi tells you he doesn’t like the matchup with James Madison for LIU, that’s fine, he is entitled to his opinion but doesn’t bother telling you why. Then he decided to take a third of the time of the video to tell you that RMU is getting more attention for playing Kentucky than LIU Brooklyn for getting into the NCAAs, and then sort of back-handedly congrats LIU for being in the tournament and then said that there is “nothing wrong with two NCAA bids in a row”. Are you serious Joe Lunardi?! Why even bother with a team preview! What a joke! The guy can’t even tell you that LIU has been in the NCAAs three straight years now. Give me a break!
Lunardi has shown many times in the last few years, he goes above and beyond giving RMU as much love as possible. Every year, he picks RMU as his preseason NCAA tournament representative for the NEC not matter that LIU was picked as favorites in mostly everyone’s preseason polls last season and this season. Makes no difference, RMU is in. I’ve learned he is a good friend of the president of RMU. So it all makes sense.
Listen, is this the best LIU Brooklyn team of the last three years? No. You can’t say that when you have a star player like Julian Boyd watching from the bench as he rehabs from his ACL injury. This team though overcame a lot this season. They overcame suspensions. They overcame injuries. They still put together a 20-win season even after have a four-streak losing streak and then a six-game losing streak this season. They won their NEC tournament games this season by an average of nearly 14 points. They won on the road in this NEC tournament and had their two best games in the semifinals and finals. This may not be the best team of the three championship teams but they are the guttiest and probably toughest of the three. I think they will show that to the nation Wednesday night in Dayton. Amazingly, even still for LIU to get respect, they are going to just have to take it once more it seems. It is a shame because they honestly deserve way better.