Liberty (14-9, 3-5 CUSA) hopes to continue its winning ways by returning home to Liberty Arena to take on Middle Tennessee (8-14, 2-5) on Thursday in a Conference USA game.
Here’s what you need to know about the game:
How to Watch
7:00 p.m. ET | Thursday, February 8
Lynchburg, VA | Liberty Arena
Liberty vs Middle Tennessee Odds (KenPom)
Spread: Liberty -13
Projected score: Liberty 70, Middle Tennessee 57
Liberty Projected Starters
#0 Colin Porter
Sophomore Guard | 5’9″, 170
8.5 ppg, 4.1 apg
#3 Kaden Metheny
R-Junior Guard | 5’10”, 170
12.7 ppg, 2.7 apg, 3.3 rpg
#23 Joseph Venzant
Junior Guard | 6’3″, 200
5.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg
#22 Kyle Rode
R-Senior Forward | 6’7″, 220
13.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.3 apg
#25 Zach Cleveland
Sophomore Forward | 6’7″, 215
12.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.0 apg
Liberty vs Middle Tennessee History
N/A, first meeting.
Liberty vs Middle Tennessee Storylines
MEETING OF CUSA PRESEASON FAVES
In the preseason, Liberty and Middle Tennessee were picked as the co-favorites in the new look Conference USA. The two teams were tied atop the preseason poll, but through the first half of the conference season the Flames and Blue Raiders find themselves in the bottom half of the league standings proving that preseason expectations are many times fruitless.
MTSU head coach Nich McDevitt is in his sixth season guiding the Blue Raiders. After three straight losing seasons to begin his tenure in Murfreesboro, McDevitt and the Blue Raiders posted strong campaigns in each of the past two seasons, helping to lead to some of the high expectations entering this season.
Prior to his time leading MTSU, McDevitt was the head coach at UNC Asheville for five seasons. He had tremendous success against Liberty and McKay during his time at UNCA as both teams were members of the Big South. McDevitt posted a 6-2 record against McKay and is 10-2 all-time against Liberty during his time as a head coach. Now, Liberty, McKay, and McDevitt meet again in Conference USA.
TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS AT HOME
After posting a 1-4 record in the team’s first five games away from home in conference play, the Flames will play five of its final eight regular season games in the friendly confines of Liberty Arena. It begins Thursday night against Middle Tennessee, a game Liberty must win if it wants to fight for a spot in the top half of the conference standings by the end of the season.
Liberty is currently tied for fifth in the conference standings, but things are jumped up with teams jockeying for position to try and make a run towards the top of the standings. Including the Flames, there are four teams tied for fifth place at 3-5 with the Blue Raiders just half a game back at 2-5. Those teams are just one game behind Western Kentucky for fourth place and two games behind New Mexico State for third.
There is still time for Liberty to make a strong push to be included among the teams at the top of the standings, but the margin for error has virtually evaporated. Thursday’s game provides a great opportunity for the Flames to take care of business moving into the second half of conference play.
BUILD SOME MOMENTUM
Coming off a win at UTEP, the Flames have the opportunity to begin to build some positive momentum while playing at home. Liberty is a heavy favorite Thursday night against a Middle Tennessee team that has struggled to meet expectations to this point of the season. If Liberty can pick up a win, the team would be able to feel better about where it’s at and it’s prognosis moving later into the season.
With the conference tournament being played at a neutral site, seeding doesn’t matter as much as it has in recent seasons when Liberty could play on its home floor throughout the conference tournament. Now, it’s all about putting your team in the best position possible entering the tournament in Huntsville. The Flames have already proven it can compete with the teams sitting in first and second place in the standings – losing to Louisiana Tech on the road in overtime and taking care of Sam Houston at home. A win Thursday night will have the team in a great spot entering a huge opportunity Saturday at home against the Bulldogs.
Coach McKay Pre-game Press Conference