Wednesday, March 7, 2012
W2W4: LIU Brooklyn vs. Robert Morris
By Kieran Darcy
Here are three things to watch for when LIU Brooklyn (24-8, 16-2 NEC) takes on Robert Morris (24-9, 13-5 NEC) on Wednesday night at the Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Tip-off is at 7 p.m., and you can watch the game on ESPN2, or via ESPN3.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: The Northeast Conference tournament championship, and one of 31 highly coveted automatic bids to this year's NCAA tournament.
LIU Brooklyn is the No. 1 seed in the tournament, that's why the Blackbirds are hosting the championship game. Robert Morris is the No. 3 seed -- the Colonials upset No. 2 seed Wagner, at Wagner, on Sunday. This is a rematch of last year's NEC championship game, which was a thriller -- an 85-82 overtime win for LIU, also in Brooklyn.
These teams have played once this season -- a 75-66 Robert Morris win, at Robert Morris.
THE BLACKBIRDS: LIU is one of the most exciting teams to watch in the country. The Blackbirds are third in scoring (81.6 ppg), second in free throw attempts per game (28.2), and tops in the nation in free throw makes per game (20.6) -- LIU will kill you at the foul line.
The Blackbirds are led by a pair of 6-foot-7 junior forwards: NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd (17.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and Jamal Olasewere (17.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg). Also, sophomore point guard Jason Brickman is fifth in the country, averaging 7.2 assists per game.
In last year's NCAA tournament, LIU -- a No. 15 seed -- gave No. 2 seed North Carolina a good run, losing 102-87.
THE COLONIALS: Robert Morris is appearing in its fourth NEC championship game in a row. The last time they won it, two years ago when they were coached by Mike Rice (now at Rutgers), the Colonials were also a No. 15 seed, and came within a whisker of knocking off No. 2 seed Villanova.
This year's team is led by junior guard Velton Jones, who averages 16.6 points and 4.4 assists per game -- Jones poured in 25 points in the upset of Wagner. The only other player who averages in double figures is sophomore guard Coron Williams (10.7 ppg) -- Williams went off for 25 points in the Colonials' quarterfinal win over Monmouth.
Robert Morris is a strong rebounding team -- 35th in the country in rebound margin (+5.0 per game). The Colonials are also 21st in steals (8.5 spg).