Conference play is finally upon us and with it comes high expectations for the Flames. If Liberty can seal a fourth consecutive ASUN title, they will be in elite mid-major company, second only to Gonzaga’s dominance in the WCC.

The Flames are not the same team they were last year (obviously), but they show every bit of promise needed to secure a fourth title. It may take a bit more grit than previous years, but that makes for a character-building season (which helps with tournament preparation) and fun for the fans. Let’s look at four keys for the Flames if they want to pull off the elusive four-peat.

1. Remember the good, forget the bad.

Coach McKay is not a fan of moral victories, as he shouldn’t be. The Flames program is well beyond moral victories. Still, there is a lot the team did well during the Diamond Head Classic. The Flames didn’t just play but competed in a pool that will be considerably better than most of their ASUN counterparts. That should lead to what some call swagger. They have earned it in this early part of the season. Coach McKay has figured out his preferred lineups, the guys are more cohesive, and they make it hard for teams to simply cruise to wins. That kind of approach can lead to very smooth sailing in the ASUN, and their record shows it compared to their conference counterparts considering the early strength of the Flames’ schedule.

2. Darius has to be…well, Darius.

Darius McGhee has left absolutely no doubt about the level of his play among his collegiate peers and potentially at the next level coming off his performance in the Diamond Head Classic. His 41 and 29 point record-setting performances reminded skeptics and scouts that he is for real. Thankfully, the ASUN doesn’t require 40 point nights every time out at nearly 50 percent shooting from the field and an average of 40 percent from three. If he can maintain his 20 point average at around 45 percent shooting, the team will have what they need from him in the scoring column. That kind of threat opens up the entire offense and will cause problems for any ASUN defense his team faces.

3. An aggressive Kyle is a dangerous Kyle.

Kyle Rode is an exceptional floor-general and on-court coach. His size, mobility, and decision-making with the ball give the Flames an immediate advantage in creating mismatches. Like any heady and cagey player, he has a tendency to be unselfish to a fault. Rode often creates exceptional dribble penetration but settles for kick-outs. Recently, we have seen flashes of the confident shooter and driven finisher/creator he can be. As he unleashes his full set of weapons, the rest of the Flames will follow suit. As the floor general goes, so goes the offense.

4. Always make the free ones.

Unfortunately, the Flames have been inconsistent this season from the line. The Diamond Head Classic was officiated…uniquely, but those games still came down to just a small margin of error. Right now Liberty ranks 242nd in the country on team free-throw shooting percentage (per ESPN). To bring this point home, Stetson, currently occupying last place in the recent ASUN free throw percentage, is shooting 65.9 percent from the line (per ESPN). If Liberty wants to hoist the trophy once more, they will have to find the stroke at the stripe.

All things considered, it is still the Flames’ conference to lose. They are in the driver’s seat and have every reason to believe they can soon hear, “and still undisputed ASUN Conference champs!”