We all knew the goal of last season for the LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball team was to make history and be the first Northeast Conference team to win three consecutive basketball championships. With that accomplished, the goal for the 2013-14 LIU Blackbirds is to expand on their NEC record and create further history as they try to become the first to four straight NEC championships.
That, of course, will be a lot easier said than done. Three straight championships is obviously a major accomplishment. Yet, trying to win four straight championships in any conference much less from a one-bid conference like the NEC will be incredibly tough.
There are several reasons for it being so difficult to accomplish. One, core players of championship teams graduate. Usually for mid-major programs, their best players are upperclassmen, juniors and seniors, guys who have been in the system a few seasons. Once they are gone, it leaves guys who have less experienced and guys who are new to the program to try and continue the winning ways. Not an easy chore. Two, head coaches who won multiple championships in one-bid conferences usually get hired to coach a team in a power or a high mid-major conference and new coaches have to step in and see if they continue the success the previous coach left. Three, a successful team is a marked team. Other coaches and players know who you are. They’ve seen you play in the post season. They’ve seen you win. They’ve watched you beat them year after year in conference play. Soon comes a point where these teams look at a team like LIU and mark their calendars because everyone knows to be the best you have to beat the best so that means teams are primed to play the champs. Four, once you get into conference tournament play, everything become a craps shot. One bad game will probably end your season.
For these main reasons as well as others, it is why it’s so hard to win three or more championships in a row.
I decided to do a little a research and look at some of the other mid-major conferences and see how many times a three-peat champion were able to successfully defend their championship a fourth straight season since 1980. In that time, there have been 33 teams from one-bid mid-major conferences to have won three straight conference championships and only those lucky nine teams below were able to complete at least a “four-peat”:
|Conference||Team||Consecutive Championship Seasons||Championship Seasons|
|Big South||Winthrop (twice)||4||1999-02 & 2005-08|
|MEAC||North Carolina A&T||7||1982-88|
|Southern||East Tennessee State||4||1989-92|
So in the past 33 years, a mid-major team out of a traditional one-bid conference won at least four straight conference championships just nine times with Winthrop being the only team to do so twice.
That means just over a quarter of the teams were able to accomplish the feat. This season, two teams in one-bid conferences have a chance at this difficult feat, obviously one is LIU Brooklyn along with Harvard in the Ivy League.
There are eleven traditional one-bid conferences (Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big West, Colonial Athletic, MAAC, NEC, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Patriot, SWAC, and Sun Belt) who have never had a team win four straight conference titles. Every mid-major conference with the exception of the MAC and the WAC has has at least one three-peat conference champion.
LIU Brooklyn will have quite a challenge in accomplishing the “four-peat”. Not only are they returning just two starters (Julian Boyd and Jason Brickman), they will likely have seven players on their roster who has never played a game for the Blackbirds before. In fact, only 43% of last season’s LIU players’ minutes return back for this upcoming season and Jason Brickman takes up nearly 42% of those returning minutes all by himself. This further illustrates how difficult it will be for LIU head coach Jack Perri and his team to win a fourth straight NEC title with a majority of player experience lost, nearly all due to graduation.
Obviously, if you’ve been a reader of this blog long enough, you know I’m not trying to say that LIU winning four-straight championships can’t or won’t happen. LIU will once again be looked as one of the favorites to win the NEC next season with two returning first-team All-NEC players in their starting lineup, one of them a former NEC Player of the Year (Boyd). The point I’m making is that, LIU will definitely have their hands full trying to keep this historic championship streak going for another season. History dictates that the odds are not in their favor to keep the streak going. Yet, at many points last season, it didn’t seem like the odds were in their favor on their road to a three-peat and they were able to accomplish that feat successfully.
As we all learned especially after this past season, we can’t count out the Blackbirds. When they looked like they were knocked out several times, they kept getting up and fought their way back to the top once again and likely this season, they will probably need to do the same again if they wants to keep the good times rolling and make further history in the NEC come next March.