Liberty has officially released its 2022-23 men’s basketball schedule, featuring a game at Alabama and an appearance in the Cancun Challenge alongside Northwestern, Auburn, and others. Liberty will open the season on Nov. 7 at home against Regent.
“Glad to finally have the schedule finished,” said Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay. “This is the longest, I think, I have gone in my entire career that we didn’t know what the schedule was going to be prior to school starting. I think there’s a multitude of dynamics in that. That being said, I think there is a great balance. Our goal in the non-conference is always to challenge ourselves to a degree that would warrant an opportunity to contend for a conference championship. I think we’ve achieved that in some of the caliber of opponents we will face.”
Liberty men’s basketball team will travel to SEC country again this season, playing at Alabama Nov. 11. This will be the second ever meeting between the two programs, as Alabama defeated Liberty, 84-75, on Dec. 18, 2018. That game was part of the Rocket City Classic, played in Huntsville, Alabama. Caleb Homesley led the Flames in scoring with 23 points while Scottie James added a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Darius McGhee chipped in 11 points in the loss.
The Crimson Tide are entering their fourth season under head coach Nate Oats who has guided them to the NCAA Tournament each of the past two seasons, including a Sweet 16 berth in 2021. Last year, Alabama finished the season at 19-14 overall and 9-9 in the SEC, falling to Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This will also be a reunion of sorts with former Liberty strength coach Henry Barrera now in his first season on staff in the same capacity at Alabama.
“Playing at Alabama, although frustrated that Coach Barrera has all our secrets, he stole our secret sauce,” said McKay. “Nate Oats and I agreed to take a swing at it. I was appreciative of Nate because he was one of the ones willing to play.”
Other games that have been previously announced as part of Liberty’s non-conference schedule include a home date with North Carolina Central on Nov. 14 and three games as part of the Cancun Challenge, beginning with a home date at Liberty Arena against Southern Miss on Nov. 18 before heading to Mexico to take on Northwestern on Nov. 22 and either Bradley or Auburn on Nov. 23.
“Playing in the Cancun Challenge is a privilege,” McKay stated. “The three other teams that are in that bracket will present a great opportunity for us to grow as a program.”
The Flames are also scheduled to play host to Delaware State (Nov. 26), Maryland Eastern-Shore (Dec. 2), and Clarks Summit (Dec. 6) while travelling to Oral Roberts (Dec. 12). Liberty will play Bryant in the 2022 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Classic on Saturday, Dec. 17 in Springfield, Massachusetts. The final two non-conference games are scheduled to be played in Liberty Arena on Dec. 19 against Grambling State and Dec. 21 against Mid-Atlantic Christian.
“Coach Mills said he thought they would get 6-7,000 for that one,” McKay said of the Oral Roberts game. “I think there was already some decent buzz, social media buzz, on two of the top three scorers in the country going head-to-head. I think there will be a little shine on that. Having the chance to go there, they are experienced. Obviously, two years ago, they made it to the Sweet 16. I think (Max) Abmas had a right wing three that could have propelled them to the Elite Eight and he would have been even more of a household name.”
The Flames were unable to schedule any non-conference games away from home that were in close proximity even though they tried, according to McKay. The Liberty head coach said if there were an all-state school classic held for Virginia Division I basketball teams, that the Flames would “certainly sign up for it.”
“I won’t name all the schools because, again for one reason or another, they weren’t able to do it,” McKay stated of not being able to play regional non-conference games this season. “I don’t want to cast negativity on them because they couldn’t do it. They want to do the best for their schedule just like we do.”
Liberty is coming off a season that saw the program win 20 or more games for a sixth consecutive year. The Flames finished the season at 22-11 overall and 12-4 in ASUN play, finishing first in the ASUN’s East Division. Liberty saw its three straight ASUN championships come to an end when the Flames lost to Bellarmine, 53-50, on March 5 in the ASUN Tournament semifinals.
“There was a time where I thought we weren’t going to be able to fill the maximum amount that we were allowed to play because we literally could not get any regional games whether home and home, guarantees,” McKay explained. “We couldn’t, that became a little concerning.”
Nov. 07 – vs Regent
Nov. 11 – @ Alabama
Nov. 14 – vs NC Central
Nov. 18 – vs Southern Miss
Nov. 22 – Northwestern (Cancun Challenge)
Nov. 23 – Bradley/Auburn (Cancun Challenge)
Nov. 26 – vs Delaware State
Dec. 02 – vs Maryland Eastern-Shore
Dec. 06 – Clarks Summit
Dec. 12 – @ Oral Roberts
Dec. 17 – Bryant (Hall of Fame Classic)
Dec. 19 – vs Grambling State
Dec. 21 – vs Mid-Atlantic Christian
Dec. 29 – @ Bellarmine*
Jan. 02 – vs Lipscomb*
Jan. 05 – vs Jacksonville State*
Jan. 07 – @ Eastern Kentucky*
Jan. 12 – vs North Alabama*
Jan. 14 – vs Central Arkansas*
Jan. 19 – @ Jacksonville*
Jan. 21 – @ North Alabama*
Jan. 26 – vs Stetson*
Jan. 28 – vs FGCU*
Feb. 02 – @ Austin Peay*
Feb. 04 – @ Lipscomb*
Feb. 09 – vs Bellarmine*
Feb. 11 – vs Eastern Kentucky*
Feb. 16 – @ Kennesaw State*
Feb. 18 – @ Jacksonville State*
Feb. 22 – @ Queens*
Feb. 24 – vs Queens*