Today was the day we were all waiting for since LIU Brooklyn won their third straight NEC Championship on Tuesday night. We finally learned when and where the Blackbirds will playing their NCAA Tournament game. LIU Brooklyn will be heading to Dayton, Ohio as most of the bracketologists had predicted they would and they will be involved in one of the two 16-seed play-in games the NCAA has dubbed the “First Four” on Wednesday night at 6:40pm on truTV.
They will face the James Madison Dukes, winners of the Colonial Athletic Association conference tournament. The winner of this game will take on 1-seed Indiana University on Friday. Indiana was the Big Ten regular season champions and had been the number one team in the polls a few times this season.
The Blackbirds got to watch the NCAA Selection Show on campus with friends and family and plenty of press and media on hand. When LIU Brooklyn finally flashed up on the many TV screens next to James Madison’s name and right below Indiana name, there was a polite applause coming from the Blackbirds. It wasn’t the jump-out-of-your-chair, high-fives all-around excitement that you might expect a team who is going to the NCAA Tournament to show. Yet, this is a mostly veteran LIU Brooklyn team who has been played in two NCAAs in the last two years. This is a team that was a 15 seed when they probably should have gotten a 14 seed in 2011. A team that was a 16 seed when they probably should have gotten a 15 seed in 2012. Now, it might have been a team that deserved to miss the “First Four” and not have to earn the right to play 1-seed Indiana so I can understand the subdue yet polite reaction when they saw their name flash on the TV screens.
But LIU Brooklyn is definitely looking forward to getting their tournament experience going. “These guys are going to be ready to go.” said a calm looking Jack Perri after the announcement was made. “There is not going to be an awe-factor for (this team). We’ll get ready, we’ll be prepared and we’ll go at it like any other game. There is a great excitement level that we get a chance to win a (NCAA) tournament game against a like opponent.”
“Thankful.” said senior forward Jamal Olasewere upon learning their first and possible second opponent in the NCAA tournament. “We had some bad losses so this was obviously going to be an option. I was praying for a (non play-in) 16 (seed) but to be here, we are just thankful. I’m glad we are making this trip again.
“I kinda expected it.” said junior point guard Jason Brickman about LIU’s seeding. “…with the struggles that we had early in the season but I think most of the guys are going to be excited. We going to take it as a challenge and prepare for it well.”
“It is not a shocker we got the play-in game.” said senior guard C.J. Garner. “It is what it is. We are going to go out there and play hard.”
LIU doesn’t know too much about James Madison. In fact, the two school have only meet twice before and the last time was back in the 2000-2001 season. LIU is 0-2 all-time vs JMU. “I haven’t seen them or know much about them but I’m pretty sure I can figure they have some big guys down low. We just going to play our game and stick to running it.” said Garner of James Madison.
James Madison (20-14, 11-7 in CAA, fourth place) is making their fifth NCAA tournament appearance but it is their first appearance since 1994 when they narrowly lost to Florida in the first down by two points. LIU will have the experience advantage on their side in their game against JMU. “In a situation like this, being in the lights, being the only teams playing at that time, experience is going to be key to handle the situation in the right way.” said Jamal Olasewere. “James Madison doesn’t have the experience that we do. I know that for a fact. We’ve been in it for the last two years. We have guys like Jason Brickman, C.J. Garner, Jamal Olasewere who have unbelievable experience in the NCAA tournament. There is no wow-factor for them, they are going to be business-like, they are going to be ready. We are going to prepare them and then we’ll see what happens.”
So the Blackbirds are off to Dayton and hope to make this year’s trip back to the NCAAs at least a two-game affair and if things break in the right way then history can be further written for this LIU Brooklyn team. First things first, a date with James Madison on early Wednesday evening.