It’s time to get geared up for basketball season! The Flames have put together an interesting non-conference schedule in preparation for their run at the top of the Big South. Highlights include a road game against the University of Virginia, and Princeton coming into the Vines Center.
Liberty tips off the season with a home exhibition against local opponent Randolph College. They then head to Williamsburg, VA to take on William and Mary before heading back to Lynchburg for contests against Western Carolina and UNC Wilmington.
Next, the Flames will take part in the Corpus Christi Challenge, beginning with a game in Charlottesville, VA, against the University of Virginia, and then heading to Springfield, MO, to take on Missouri State. They’ll end up in Corpus Christi, playing Hampton and then either the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff or Sam Houston State.
For the month of December, Liberty alternates between home and away games each week. They welcome Greensboro College into the Vines, and then travel to Tennessee to take on Austin Peay. They return home to face Howard University, and then go to Greenville, SC, to play Furman University. The final contest in December is a home game against Southeastern University.
The Flames play two non-conference games in the first week of January, and then they begin conference play. The first game is on the road against Delaware, on New Years Day. Liberty’s final non-conference game is against Princeton, probably the most exciting home game on the non-Big South schedule.
There are only a few opponents who stand out of the Flames’ non-conference schedule. It would be great to see a schedule with some of the higher-powered ACC teams, like Duke and North Carolina, or new addition Syracuse, but that’s just wishful thinking. They did get UVA, which should be fun. Princeton isn’t an elite team, but they will bring with them an aura of history and American tradition.
In the end, it’s all about taking care of business against Big South teams, and making it to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments.
Here are some blurbs about each non-conference games Liberty plays this year, with last season’s overall and conference records:
Randolph College (21-7, 11-5 ODAC) Coach: Clay Nunley
Coach Clay Nunley led the Wildcats to their first NCAA Division III Tournament appearance last season, and will have a chance to test his teams mettle against the division I Flames. Randolph lost its two top scorers to graduation (more than 35 ppg, combined), and will be counting on leadership from Mike Ehilegbu, who, from what I can tell, is their only senior.
William & Mary (14-17, 8-11 CAA) Coach: Tony Shaver
Liberty heads to Williamsburg, VA to take on the Tribe, their first challenge of the season. William and Mary, like Liberty, has four returning starters. This game will feature two excellent back-courts where Junior guard Marcus Thornton had 18.8 ppg by himself last year for the Tribe, complimented nicely by Brandon Britt’s 13.9.
Western Carolina (14-19, 9-9 SoCon) Coach: Larry Hunter
The Catamounts will head into the Vines Center with their full starting lineup from last season still intact. They are led by senior guard Trey Sumler, who averaged 18.4 ppg last season on his way to being named this years SoCon Preseason Player of the Year.
UNC Wilmington (10-20, 5-13 CAA) Coach: Buzz Peterson
Had UNCW played well enough to make the tournament last year, they would not have been allowed to, due to poor academic performance. This year, they are not on the list of teams banned, so they do have some hope. It will not be easy for the Seahawks though. Their leading scorer from last year has graduated, and the leading returning scorer averaged less than 10 points.
University of Virginia (23-12, 11-7 ACC) Coach: Tony Bennett
This will be one of the toughest games for Liberty this year, and it’s just the first game of the Corpus Christi Challenge. The Cavaliers have their top five scorers from last season returning, led by Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, and are projected by some to start off the season in the low end of the nation’s top 25.
Missouri State (11-22, 7-11 MVC) Coach: Paul Lusk
Game two of the Corpus Christi Challenge. According to missouristatebears.com, more than 43% of the Bears’ scoring came from freshmen last season, indicating that they can expect major improvement this year. Their leading returning scorer is Marcus Marshall, MVC Freshman of the Year, with 11.5 ppg.
Hampton University (14-17, 11-5 MEAC) Coach: Edward Joyner Jr.
Game three of the Corpus Christi Challenge. They lost their first game in the MEAC tournament last year, but the Pirates will be looking to improve on that as they return several of their top scorers. They are led by senior DuVaughn Maxwell and sohpomore Deron Powers.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff/Sam Houston State
One of these two will be Liberty’s final opponent in the Corpus Christi Challenge. Coach George Ivory and the UAPB Golden Lions finished tied for second in the SWAC last season. Sam Houston and coach Jason Hooten finished fifth in the Southland Conference.
Greensboro College (18-9, 9-5 USA South) Coach: Brian Galuski
Random fact: Greensboro opened up their season last year with an exhibition loss to North Carolina A&T, the team that ended the Flames’ season in the NCAA Tournament play-in game. The Pride compete at the NCAA Division III level, and are led by Damian Dixon’s 15.7 ppg.
Austin Peay State (8-23, 4-12 Ohio Valley Conference) Coach: Dave Loos
The Flames beat the Governors last year at the Vines Center in overtime, 79-73. Last season Austin Peay had problems with turnovers and defense, and is looking to correct those issues as they head into 2013-14. They returned leading scorer Travis Betran, with his 17.2 ppg.
Howard University (7-24, 4-12 MEAC) Coach: Kevin Nickelberry
Only three returning Bison players have game experience, but Nickelberry is excited about his recruiting class and hoping for big things in the future. They have brought in 10 new players with an up-tempo offense in mind. Prince Okoroh is their leading returning scorer, with 6.9 ppg last year.
Furman University (7-24, 3-15 SoCon) Coach: Niko Medved
Furman is in its first year under new head coach Niko Medved, previously a coach with Colorado State, where Liberty’s last two coaches have spent time. SoCon coaches have predicted Furman will finish 10th in the eleven team conference. Their leading returning scorer is Stephen Croone, with 9.9 ppg last season.
Southeastern University (15-17, 5-11 Sun conference) Coach: Jay Barsh
This matchup is truly an example of fighting fire with fire, as the Southeastern Fire come to Lynchburg to face the Flames. The Fire play at the NAIA level, so if you like blowouts, make sure to get tickets for this one.
University of Delaware (19-14, 13-5 CAA) Coach: Monte Ross
After earning a #2 seed heading into the CAA Tournament last year, Delaware lost to James Madison in the semifinals by only one point. They return their top two scorers from last year, including Devon Usher and his 19.9 ppg, so they will be expecting big things.
Princeton (17-11, 10-4 Ivy League) Coach: Mitch Henderson
Even though they finished second in the Ivy League last season, Princeton refused to play in any of the other invitational tournaments; they’re looking for NCAA Tournament play. They’ll have to find a way to make it to the tournament this year without last year’s leader Ian Hummer, though, as they have lost him to graduation.