The ASUN Men’s Basketball Tournament tips off Monday, and, as tip-off gets closer, here’s a quick preview of each team entering the tournament this week:
The Flames and Bisons spent the better part of the season going toe-to-toe for the top spot in the league. Lipscomb had the edge early in the season primarily due to the fact they were defending ASUN Tournament champs and had impressive early non-conference wins over SMU and TCU. They proved they were the team to beat in late January when they embarrassed the Flames in a prime-time showdown. Liberty bounced back to beat Lipscomb in the Music City a couple weeks later, and when Lipscomb lost to FGCU shortly thereafter it looked like the Flames were going to get the 1-seed. That was until Liberty blew a double digit lead in the last 8 minutes at North Florida, as Liberty and Lipscomb ended the regular season knotted in a first place tie at 14-2. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head. With both teams going 1-1 against the other, that wouldn’t break the tie. The next tiebreaker is to start at the top of the standings comparing the tied teams’ record against the other teams until the tie is broken. Behind the LUs, FGCU and North Florida finished in a tie for 3rd, with the Flames and Bisons each going 3-1 against those teams. The tie couldn’t be broken against any of the other teams either as Liberty and Lipscomb were 10-0 against the rest of the league. The only way to break the tie, was to first break the tie for 3rd place. With UNF and FGCU splitting their head-to-head series and both going 1-3 against the two LUs, the only way to break that tie was to continue down the standings comparing head-to-head records. It wasn’t until reaching the 6th place team, North Alabama, that the tie could be broken. The Ospreys were 2-0 against UNA and FGCU was 1-1. Thus, giving the 3rd place tie-breaker to UNF. Then, we could go back to the first place tie, and give the nod to Lipscomb because they were 2-0 against UNF compared to Liberty’s 1-1 mark.
TeamRankings has Lipscomb as the favorite, giving them a 71.33% chance to win.
Due to the tie-breaker, the Flames get the 2-seed despite winning at least a share of the regular season championship for the first time in 15 years and just the 3rd time in school history. Coach McKay and the Flames will try to get revenge from last year’s heartbreak when Liberty lost to Carlik Jones and Radford in the Big South Tournament Championship on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The Flames open ASUN Tournament play Monday night by hosting Jacksonville. Liberty was 2-0 against the Dolphins this season, beating them by 16 in Lynchburg and having to come from 10 points behind in the final 11 minutes to get the win in Jacksonville.
TeamRankings gives Liberty a 23.76% chance at winning the tournament.
#3 North Florida
The Ospreys enter the conference tournament the hottest team in the league, having won 6 in a row, including a win over Liberty last Saturday. Matt Driscoll’s squad has had one of the more interesting conference seasons, open league play at 3-1 with 20+ point wins over North Alabama and FGCU, before losing 6 straight to fall to 3-7 in ASUN play. Noah Horchler was kicked off the team just last week. He was a candidate to make the ASUN first-team all-conference team as the 6’8″ big man was averaging 16 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. UNF opens tournament play against #6 North Alabama. The Ospreys are 2-0 against the Lions, winning the two matchups this season by an average of 24.5 points.
TeamRankings gives North Florida a 2.45% chance at winning the championship.
Florida Gulf Coast is also one of the hottest teams in the league, having won 3 in a row and 9 out of 13. Three of those losses came on the road to Lipscomb, Liberty, and NJIT. The only other loss was a head-scratching loss at Stetson two weeks ago. The Eagles have won straight home games, including a win over Lipscomb. Their lass home loss was to Liberty in the first conference game of the season. FGCU is just 2-6 on the road in league play, with their wins coming at Kennesaw State and over Jacksonville Friday night. They open at home Monday night against NJIT.
TeamRankings gives FGCU a 0.92% chance at winning the championship.
While Liberty and Lipscomb battled it out at the top of the standings, NJIT found themselves in 3rd place most of the season including down the home stretch when they entered the final week of the season alone in 3rd. Despite battling the Flames and Bisons tough in their final 2 games, the Highlanders lost both to fall to 8-8 in the league standings, all alone in 5th place. This puts NJIT on the road in the quarterfinals as they travel to FGCU Monday night. The two teams split their season series with FGCU winning by 12 on their home floor.
TeamRankings gives NJIT a 1.29% chance at winning the championship.
#6 North Alabama
Behind first year head coach, the Division I newbies, North Alabama, were the surprise of the conference race this season. Entering the season predicted to finish last in the league, the Lions jumped out to a 5-2 ASUN record vaulting them into 3rd place. UNA lost 5 straight and 7 out of their last 9 games to finish all alone in 6th place at 7-9. As a transitioning Division I member, the Lions are not eligible for the NCAA Tournament and ASUN auto-bid. If UNA goes on a surprise run to win the tournament, the regular season champ Lipscomb will get the league’s auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament.
TeamRankings gives North Alabama a 0.06% chance at winning the championship.
The Dolphins are a team that are just a few points away from challenging for a first round home game as they lost 6 games that were decided in overtime or by 4 points or less. Jacksonville was 4-0 against the league’s worst (Kennesaw State and Stetson) and 1-11 against all the rest.
TeamRankings gives Jacksonville a 0.20% chance at winning the championship.
#8 Kennesaw State
The Owls were 4-25 against Division I opponents but did just enough to sneak into the ASUN Tournament as the 8-seed. KSU knocked off Stetson, 83-82, Friday night to finish in a tie with the Hatters at 3-13 and winning the tiebreaker. Their reward? A trip to Nashville to take on Lipscomb.
TeamRankings gives Kennesaw State a 0.00% chance at winning the championship.